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Red-hot second half pushes Witt past Denison

Garrett Collier |  Photo by Craig Hicks
Garrett Collier | Photo by Craig Hicks

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio--  A 14-0 run by Wittenberg to open the second half helped the top-seeded and sixth-ranked Tigers to a 97-73 victory over fifth-seeded Denison in the semifinals of the 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Tournament.

In the first half, Denison shot 55 percent from the field but the Tigers were even hotter, connecting at a 62 percent clip.  The Big Red poured in eight 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes of action led by Jack Coulter, Maxwell Siwik and Matt Doyle who each went 2-for-4 in the opening half.  Wittenberg got 19 points off the bench on a 7-for-7 shooting performance by freshman James Johnson. He checked into the game averaging 8.9 points per game and his 19 first half points were just two shy of his career-high.

Despite all of the early offense by both squads, Denison trailed by one, 43-42 at the intermission.

To start the second half, Denison missed its first seven shots from the field allowing the Tigers to go on a 14-0 run in the first three minutes of the period. 

Denison couldn't recover.

The Tigers were efficient at the offensive end, shooting 22-of-30 (73 percent) in the second half and 68 percent for the game. Denison struggled to recapture the groove they experienced in the first half as they shot 36 percent over the final 20 minutes.

Four players scored in double figures for Denison as Garrett Collier led the way with 17 points.  Siwik and Doyle followed with 16 and Matt Gerics chipped in 11 off the bench.

Wittenberg was led by Mitch Balser and James Johnson with 23 points. Connor Seipel and Chad Roy finished with 16 while Jordan Pumroy added nine points and nine rebounds.

The Tigers (25-2) advance to the NCAC Championship game tomorrow afternoon where they will face the winner of the Wooster-Ohio Wesleyan semifinal at 4 p.m. at Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio.

Denison's season comes to an end with a 15-12 record.  This is the fourth-straight season with a record of .500 or better for Denison basketball.  It also marked the program's third-consecutive trip to the conference tournament Final Four. 

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