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NCAC Semifinal Preview: Denison at Wittenberg

Denison men's basketball bench

GRANVILLE, Ohio--  There was a 13-year gap between North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinal appearances for the Denison men's basketball program that started in 1999 and lasted until 2011. 

That seems like ancient history now.

For the third-straight year and the fourth time since 2012, Denison will play in the Final Four of the conference tournament with a bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line.  They will play the tournament's No. 1 seed, Wittenberg, on Friday (Feb. 23) at 5:30 p.m. at Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio.

In 2012, Denison found themselves in a similar situation.  As the No. 5 seed, they were forced to go on the road for the quarterfinal where they rode the hot-hand of Larry Farmer to leave Wabash with a 74-60 win.  Up next was top-seeded Wittenberg in Springfield.  In that one, Denison jumped out to a 19-2 lead to start the game and held on for the 66-58 win to advance to the NCAC Championship.

This year, Denison is once again the No. 5 seed and will make the drive on I-70 West to the Wittenberg campus.  The Tigers are ranked sixth in the latest Top-25 poll at 24-2.  Their only conference losses came in back-to-back contests on Feb. 10 and Feb. 14 to Hiram and Ohio Wesleyan.  The Tigers are a perfect 13-0 at home this season.  Denison's last win in Springfield came last season when the Big Red topped the Tigers 72-68 in overtime.

Denison has four players who average double figures, led by senior swingman Maxwell Siwik who is scoring 15.9 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. Garrett Collier averages 12.3 ppg while also leading the team in rebounding (6.3 rpg.) and assists (5.1 apg.).  Denison leads the NCAC in 3-point percentage (38.4 percent) and is second in 3-pointers made per game.  When DU makes 10 or more 3-pointers in a game this season, they are 11-3.

Wittenberg is led by 6-10 senior, Chad Roy.  The Toledo, Ohio native is averaging 15.6 points per game and leads the NCAC in field goal percentage (.627).  Mitch Balser, who transferred from rival Wooster over the summer, is averaging 12.8 ppg and has scored in double figures in both contests against Denison this season.

Wittenberg's Matt Croci is in his second year as the head coach of the Tigers. In two seasons he boasts a record of 42-11 (.792).  Wittenberg won its first 22 games this season and was ranked as high as No. 3 in the polls.

Bob Ghiloni is in his 16th season leading the Big Red. He ranks third in career victories with 172 and has guided Denison to four-straight seasons of .500 or better for the first time since 1953-57.

In the other tournament semifinal, Wooster will play Ohio Wesleyan at 7:30 p.m. in Springfield.  The winner of the two semifinal games will meet in the NCAC Championship on Saturday (Feb. 24) at 4 p.m. at Pam Evans Smith Arena on Wittenberg's campus.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children (18 and under), NCAC Guest Pass holders and students without an ID from an NCAC institution.  NCAC students are free with a valid ID.  One ticket will be good for both semifinal games.

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