NCAC Men’s Basketball Tournament at College of Wooster

Little Giants, Tigers make history even before the opening tip in NCAC MBB semifinals

( founder John Kerezy wrote these stories for uage on/after 5 p.m. on Thursday Feb. 23. Any/all NCAA Division III followers are welcome to use and share the content.)

WOOSTER — When DePauw University and Wabash College’s men’s basketball teams clash on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Timken Gymnasium, it’ll mark the first time after 224 previous games that the two rivals have played on a neutral floor. The two schools, less than 30 miles apart in West Central Indiana, both travel about 318 miles to Wooster for the first of two North Coast Athletic Conference semifinal contests. Denison opposes Wooster in the other semifinal (more below).

“The first two games were won by the home team, so it’ll be fun to play them (Wabash) on a neutral court,” says Rusty Loyd, DePauw MBB head coach. “They are coming off a Final Four Run so their players have played in some big games. They are going to be well prepared to face us.”

The Tigers defeated Wabash 86-80 in Greencastle back on January 14. The Little Giants turned the tables on DePauw, beating them 89-79 in Crawfordsville on Feb. 1. The winner tomorrow (Friday Feb. 24) goes on to the NCAC tournament championship game on Saturday. The loser goes home.

“Friday night’s game with DePauw will come with a lot of emotion,” adds Wabash coach Kyle Brumett. “We need to channel that emotion into positive execution, really following our game plan and playing smart basketball.”


DePauw’s Tigers (18-8) may have finished sixth in the North Coast Athletic Conference, but the team comes into the tournament semifinals with a head of steam, victors in their last four contests including a 78-69 triumph at Ohio Wesleyan on Tuesday to advance in the tournament. Senior Eli Hales, an Academic All American in 2021-22, leads the team in scoring with 18.8 points per game (ppg). Sophomore Camden Brown is second in scoring at 10.3 ppg and 5.5 rebounds per game (rpg). Junior Grant Niego is next at 8.8 ppg and 4.5 rbg, and junior Grant Gohmann brings down 4.3 rbg.

Two important elements in the Tigers’ success comes on the boards and at the free throw line. DePauw is shooting 77% from the charity stripe, and they average 14.2 points a game – 20% of their 74.6 points per contest — in free throws. DePauw can be expected to employ 10 players in the contest, but Hales will be on the floor the most, averaging 34 minutes a game.

“We have held three of our last four opponents below 70 points, which is goal going into every game we play,” Loyd adds. “Defensive rebounding has been a huge inflection point for our season. In games where we control the defensive boards, we win.”

Fans of Wabash were expecting some rebuilding this season after a 28-4 mark and tournament triumphs all the way to the NCAA Division III National Semifinals in 2021-22. Instead the Little Giant reloaded, posting a 19-7 record thus far, and came within one point of repeating as NCAC regular season champs, falling to Wooster 75-74 on Feb. 18. Second-place Wabash got to the NCAC championship tournament by eliminating Hiram 91-71 on Tuesday. Wabash is also No. 7 in the NCAA Division III Region VII rankings.

Junior Ahmoni Jones leads the Little Giants in scoring (16.2 ppg) and rebounding (5.9 rpg), followed by sophomore Vinny Buccilla (14.5 ppg), junior Sam Comer (10.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and junior Edreece Redmond (10.5 ppg). Wabash also plays 10 deep in most games, with  Buccilla and Comer in the contest on average for 32 of each game’s 40 minutes.

It’s no secret that the three-point play is an important part of Wabash’s offensive arsenal, as the Little Giants make an average of eight shots per game behind the 3-point line. DePauw hits an average of 7.3 shots in 3-point country, but it allows 8.5 a game as well. Wabash surrenders less than 6 treys per game (5.9) in playing an assertive man-to-man defense.


“…it will take a lot of guys to contribute to win,” Brumett says about his Wabash team. “Ahmoni Jones will have to play well, especially rebounding the basketball.  Vinny will need to be in attack mode.  Comer, Redmond, and (Avery) Beaver are relied upon to lead the team offensively and defensively. 

“They will all need to make some shots, but they also help coach the team on the floor,” Brumett adds. “And then we will need great effort from the rest our hard-playing guys like Gavin Schippert, Styles and Champ (McCorkle), (Josh) Whack and Randy (Kelley). 

“If we are going to keep playing, guys will have to be ready for their moment, because it will come.”

On the other side, DePauw knows it needs Elijah Hales at the helm to be successful.

“Eli’s ability to score and bend defenses is a huge part of who we are and what we do,” Loyd explains. “We get great contributions in the starting line-up from Grant Gohmann and Grant Niego – great passers and distributors – and Cam Brown has been a great force for us around the basket but has also shown an ability to step out and shoot 3s.”

“Sam Jacobs, a freshman, is our fifth starter, and in the starting line-up he’s averaging double figures while shooting 55% from the field and 40% from 3s,” Loyd adds. “Senior Nolan Niego has been off the bench and provides a veteran presence. Finally, Ryan Jacobson, Billy Bach, Kyle Lillwitz and Ronald Johnson have been great contributors in varying roles.” 


Division III sports fans know about the rivalry between DePauw and Wabash and the Monon Bell Football Classic, which goes back to 1890. Brumett and Loyd have mutual high regard for the rivalry and their opposition, but they’re also friends.  

“Wabash is balanced, and that makes them hard to guard and allows them to play varying styles. Our program has a great deal of respect for them,” Loyd says. “We expect their best.”

“We have to limit our fouls on Elijah Hayes and keep DePauw as a team off the free throw line,” Brumett says. “We have to defend and rebound well without fouling.”

Brumett also puts the semifinal contest into some perspective.

“Coach Loyd and I got into coaching at the same time, and we have competed against each other for a long time. Our children are similar ages. We have a lot in common and we know each other’s grind and path,” he explains. “Those things are special, but the GAME is about the players. This is an opportunity for my guys to make this team and this season special.”

Big Red aims for another upset over top-ranked Fighting Scots

WOOSTER – February 15 is very much on the minds of both the Wooster and Denison men’s basketball teams. That’s the date host Denison upset conference-leading Wooster, 78-70, and it’s a game Big Red MBB coach Chris Sullivan is using the best parts of that outcome motivate his players.

“We turned the ball over just 11 times in our win (vs. Wooster) compared to turning it over 20 times in our loss to them,” says Sullivan, whose 15-10 team came into the NCAC Tournament ranked No. 4. “We also need to shoot well. We’re 9-2 when we make 9 threes or more (and the two losses were both in overtime).”

For host 20-5 Wooster, winner of the regular season North Coast Athletic Conference title and ranked 4th in Region VII of NCAA Division III, defeating Denison is the key for a return to the NCAC tournament championship game and a probable entry into the 2023 Division III national tournament as well.

“We will need to be very good on the defensive end. Denison is a very talented team with a lot of shooters with deep range,” says Doug Cline, Wooster’s head coach. “They are also a challenge to stop in the post. We have to play good defense and rebound. It’s important that we limit them to one shot.”


One cannot describe Wooster’s offense without putting the word balanced into the first sentence. The Fighting Scots sport five players averaging double figures, and all also average 4-5 rebounds per game as well. Senior Najee Hardway leads the way with 12.4 ppg and 4.3 rpg. Juniors Elijah Meredith (11.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Nick Everett (11.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg) are close behind. Senior Turner Kurt is the top rebounder at 5.5 rpg to go with his 10.7 ppg average. Sophomore Jamir Billings is at 10.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg.

Cline has high expectations of his seniors.

“We will look to Turner Kurt and Najee Hardaway to lead our team. When you get to February, you go as far as your seniors take you,” he says. “They have to have that will to want to keep playing basketball. They are both great youg men, and our younger guys need to follow their lead and play for them.”

Denison’s Big Three of junior Darren Rubin, sophomore Ricky Radke and sophomore Tyler Miller have paced the visitors all season. Rubin averages 16.1 ppg and also leads the team in assists. Radke averages 12.5 ppg and 7.9 rpg. Miller clocks in with 8.5 ppg and 4.6 rpg as well. Nick Heath, Will Hunter and Scotty Dean are also key members of Big Red’s team. It was Dean who scored the last-second lay-up which let Denison to a 65-63 victory over Wittenberg on Tuesday, enabling the team to advance to the NCAC Quarterfinals.

“We rely on Darren (Rubin) and Ricky (Radtke) who have been at the core of our inside-out attack all year,” Sullivan says. “What I enjoy most about coaching this group is that on any given night, we have a number of guys who can step up and go for double figures….(they) have all proven themselves as secondary scoring threats who can turn into primary threats for good stretches.”

One telling statistic about which both teams are well aware: Wooster holds a 36-29 rebounding edge over its opponents. “We have to make sure we have the right match-ups, especially in the post,” Sullivan says.


Wooster is warily prepared for a battle from the Big Red. “They are very hard to guard, as they really spread the floor on you,” says Cline about Denison. “Chris Sullivan has done a great job at Denison. They are a very good offensive team that can really shoot the basketball. The run a lot of Princeton action, have really good overall size, and will post up different players.”

Cline also pointed out that Rubin is excellent at pushing the ball up the court and getting into attack mode. “Denison can really shoot the basketball,” he adds.

Sullivan knows how powerful Wooster is on the floor.

“We’ll need to protect the paint as a group, as Wooster has a deep front court as well as strong guards and wings who play with an attack-first mentality,” he says. “They are a veteran, tough and extremely well balanced team. Because of that talent, (Coach) Doug really lets his guys play freely, so we will mostly key into their personal tendencies.”

The winner of the Denison-Wooster game will oppose the winner of the DePauw-Wabash semifinal matchup for the North Coast Athletic Conference tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III national tournament. That game begins Saturday at 4 p.m., also at Timken Gymnasium (capacity 2,600).

Below is the link to ticket information and policies about tickets for the games on Friday Feb. 24 and Saturday Feb. 24. If you’re driving, the College of Wooster’s address is 1189 Beall Avenue, Wooster Ohio 44691.

If you are following NCAC Women’s Basketball, here is a link to the story on the Womens’ Basketball Tournament, being held Feb. 24-25 at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

Link to: DePauw University Statistics

Link to: Denison University Statistics

Link to: Wabash College Statistics

Link to: Wabash College Roster

Linke to: College of Wooster Satistics

Media Coverage: MCTV will produce the livestream of both semifinal games and the championship game and they can be viewed at MCTV customers living in Wayne and Stark Counties can catch replays of Wooster’s games over the weekend and should consult local listings for times. Mike Breckenridge’s call of Wooster’s game can be heard on WKVX 960 AM and online at Fans can also follow the live stats link on Wooster’s men’s basketball schedule page and check for periodic score updates on the men’s basketball team’s Twitter account @ScotsBasketball.

SPECIAL THANKS TO: Athletic Communications Directors and Head Coaches at all four institutions, to the North Coast Athletic Conference’s executive director Keri Luchowski, and especially to Wooster’s Kevin Smith for their asssistance with these stories. Unless noted, photographs are from the website and/or files from the Athletic Departments of the respective colleges and universities.

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