By Will Hamburger
The Denison men’s basketball team will be entering the postseason NCAC tournament coming off of four straight tough losses to bitter conference rivals.
The difficult stretch began on Feb. 11, when the Big Red lost a heartbreaker on their home court against Kenyon, 66-62. Three days later, DU played a rematch against Wabash where they fell 68-66 after a late tip in with just 0.8 seconds left.
On Feb. 18, the men were defeated in yet another close battle with Hiram 72-67, and, to end the regular season, they suffered a senior day spoiler to Allegheny 60-59 thanks to a late Gator free throw.
The loss against Allegheny marks the last home court appearance for several seniors on the team. Patrick Keller ‘16 credited the seniors for how close the team has become.
“Brad Woolard (‘15), Robby Weingart (‘15) and Briggs King (‘15) served as captains this year” Keller said.
“They were great leaders and I really appreciate the opportunity I’ve had for the past three years to learn from them. This team has been closer than any I’ve ever played on, and I credit them for making every player in every role feel like part of the team.”
Coming off several close losses these past two weeks, the squad looks to reflect and learn. Darius White ‘16 emphasized the importance of playing fundamental basketball in close games.
“One factor that goes into a team being able to win close games is executing the game plan on offense and defense correctly,” White said. “Another factor is making clutch plays at the end of the game such as making free throws and not turning the ball over.”
Denison has garnered a reputation for playing in tight matchups this season: 14 of their regular season matches were decided by 4 points or less.
With the regular season now over, Denison will enter the conference tournament with an overall record of 13-12 (7-11 NCAC). Players to watch this postseason are David Meurer ‘17, who averaged 13.3 points per game during the regular season, Bret Woolard ‘16 with his 12.3 PPG and leader Briggs King ‘15 and his 11.1 PPG on 52 percent shooting.
Playing better will be the focus going into the NCAC tournament this coming week. Heading into Tuesday, White was confident about his team’s ability to perform under pressure.
“The way our postseason goes really depends on us and how we play as a team,” he said. “If we play the way we have when we’re winning games then we can have a very successful postseason. But if we play differently and not together then our postseason can end very soon.”
The NCAC tournament will officially begin for Denison on Feb. 24 against a tough Wooster opponent. The Big Red have played Wooster twice so far this year, with the first being a loss 95-72 in Granville and the second a close 76-72 win on the Fighting Scots’ home court.
Photo Courtesy of Nelson Dow