The Hiram College men’s basketball team trailed by as many as 18 points in the second half, but would come up short in a comeback bid against No. 9 nationally-ranked Wittenberg University, 80-79, in North Coast Athletic Conference action in Springfield.
Wittenberg (12-1, 6-0 NCAC) led for the majority of the first half with Hiram’s (3-10, 1-5 NCAC) only lead coming at the 14:39 minute mark following one-of-two free-throws by senior Matt Roman (North Olmsted). The Tigers then went on an 8-0 scoring run to regain the lead, 17-10, with 12:16 to go in the period. Wittenberg led by as many as 13 points and had a 38-27 advantage at the intermission.
In the second half, Wittenberg led by double-digits for the majority of the period, including boasting an 18-point margin, 57-39, with 13:01 remaining in the game. Hiram slowly began to chip away and outscored Wittenberg, 11-4, to cut the deficit to nine points, 59-50, following a three-pointer by freshman guard Kyle Deckerd (Louisville/Canton South) at the 8:54 mark. But the Tigers answered with five straight points to extend the margin back to double figures, 64-50, with 8:06 to go. Hiram would again rally, this time outscoring the Tigers, 20-7, to cut the deficit to a point, 71-70, following a layup by sophomore forward Riley Moore (Grafton/Midview) with 2:30 left to play. Wittenberg added a free-throw on its ensuing possession, before the Terriers took the lead on a triple by Roman making the score 73-72 with just under two minutes remaining. Hiram also led by one point, 75-74, at the 1:04 mark, but Wittenberg would outscore Hiram, 6-1, to go up by four points, 80-76, with seven seconds left. Hiram connected on a three by Deckerd with just over a second to go to make it a one-point game again, 80-79. The Terriers fouled on the ensuing inbounds pass, sending the Tigers to the free-throw line with just under a second to go. Wittenberg missed on both attempts and the final full-court heave by Hiram fell short as the Tigers hung on for the 80-79 victory.
Wittenberg shot 46.9 percent (23-of-49) from the field and 43.5 percent (10-of-23) from three-point range. THe Tigers were led in scoring by Scott Masin with 18 points. Zack Leahy was second with 14 points and Cody Phillippi added 11 points. Rounding out the high scorers was Cole Bond with 10 points.
Hiram shot 40.7 percent (24-of-59) from the floor and attempted 30 free-throws in the game, making 21 (70.0 percent). The Terriers had five players score in double figures led by senior All-NCAC guard Aaron Stefanov (Stow/Stow-Munroe Falls) with 18 points on three-of-12 shooting (25.0 percent), including 11-of-12 (91.7 percent) at the charity stripe. Deckerd was second with 11 point and the trio of Roman, Moore and senior forward Chris Zurowski (Medina) all finished with 10 points. In addition, Zurowski had a game-tying high seven rebounds.
Hiram will travel to Wooster for a NCAC matchup against No. 2 The College of Wooster on Wednesday, Jan. 15. The game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.