A long basketball season is sure to have its ups and downs, but the end of the break marked the start of a wild roller coaster for the Little Giants’ conference hopes. After losing to DePauw on January 14 , and nearly falling out of the NCAC race, the team beat Wittenberg to kick off a five-game win streak that would drive them to the top of the conference.
And what a great run it was. A buzzer-beater to force overtime against Oberlin, a second half comeback against Kenyon, a cathartic revenge against DePauw in front of the home crowd and a go-ahead three with 15 seconds left on the clock to beat Ohio Wesleyan 76-75. All that in combination with Oberlin upsetting top-seed Wooster could have set up one of the greatest late-season conference rebounds in NCAC history. However, the comeback story was spoiled on Wednesday, February 8, when Wabash (17-4, 10-2 NCAC) fell to Denison (12-9, 7-5 NCAC).
There’s just no better way to say it—Wabash choked. They let Denison get away with a seven-point lead at the end of the first half, with the scoreline reading 37-30 in favor of The Big Red. Wabash mounted something of a comeback in the second half, managing to briefly take a two-point advantage, before slipping back down to seven under. After that, they were unable to close the gap. The final score was 68-61.
“We definitely learned some of our weaknesses tonight,” said Styles McCorkle ’25. “Winning on the road is very hard, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win there. We need to play at our own speed and be tougher as a whole. Defensive rebounding can and will be the difference in games ,and we are working on improving in that area, along with limiting turnovers.”
The Little Giants looked tired for most of the game. And even when they were in the process of fighting back, they lacked a certain intensity. They could not capitalize on their opportunities and left open lanes for The Big Red to get to the rim. In the second half, both teams struggled from beyond the arc. Denison shot 3-16 from deep, while Wabash went 1-14.
Despite holding Denison to 68, the usually-excellent Wabash defense wasn’t doing much to stop their opponent, allowing Denison to get good looks in the paint. Both teams found more than half of their points in the paint. Rebounding was another major struggle for the Little Giants during the game, as they were out rebounded 41-37, giving up 15 offensive rebounds.
“Winning on the road is very hard, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy to win there. We need to play at our own speed and be tougher as a whole.”Style McCorkle ’25
Ahmoni Jones ’24 led the Little Giants in scoring with 23 points, picking up his 1000th career point during the game. Apart from Jones, only Vinny Buccilla ’25 had double-digit scoring. Buccilla put up 16 on 6-13 shooting. And reflecting a struggle from earlier in the season, the Wabash bench only brought two points to the game.
“We have to make sure that we’re coming out strong in both halves of the game and play every game like it’s our last,” Jones said. “Between now and Saturday, we have to put more emphasis on getting defensive rebounds.”
With this loss, the Little Giants remain second in the conference, just one game ahead of Ohio Wesleyan (9-4 NCAC) who suffered a similar upset to Wittenberg the same night. But even if the Wabash team manages to beat the top team, Wooster (11-2 NCAC), they won’t overtake the top spot in record. Now the only chance for Wabash to win the regular season conference is if Wooster meets the same fate at the hands of Denison.