The men’s basketball team could not get a stop on defense when they needed it the most. Denison University closed the game out by scoring on nine of their last 11 possessions on their way to a 85-79 victory. The loss ended the Tigers season.
The Big Red started the game on a 9-0 run capped off by a Matthew Baur three-pointer. Then for five minutes the men clawed themselves back into the game and cut Denison’s lead to 12-11 with 12:34 remaining in the half.
Denison took no time in expanding the lead when Garrett Collier hit two free throws with 9:15 remaining to put the Big Red on top 28-19. Behind 15 first-half points by senior Luke Lattner, the team was able to cut the lead one more time to 34-32 before Denison went on another 12-5 run to take a 46-37 lead at halftime.
David Meuror was the dark horse for Denison in the first half where he surpassed his season average of points per game in the first half alone with 16 points. Overall, the Big Red shot 55.2 percent from the field. The Tigers were kept in the game by their strong three-point shooting where they shot 6-10 from behind the arc.
DePauw quickly got themselves back in the game and tied the game at 57-57 midway through the second half. The Tigers, however, were never able to take the lead at any point in the entire game.
Down the stretch the team went to their big men to get the baskets they needed. Junior Jack Vandemerkt scored seven of his 19 points in the final minutes of the game. The team was able to cut the lead to two points twice at the end of the game after senior Nate Jahn hit a three-pointer and another time when sophomore Andrew Kus hit two free throws. Along with Vandemerkt, Lattner also scored a game-high 19 points. The Big Red were led by 28 points from Meuror.
Prior to the Denison matchup, DePauw and Wabash College collided in a pivotal NCAC matchup. Whenever DePauw and Wabash meet in a sporting event, it’s must see action. The script was poised perfectly for another dramatic nail-biter, like both of their last two overtime meetings. Unfortunately for those who love the drama, this game did not have a whole lot. Instead the Tigers blew out the Little Giants 70-50.
The Tigers started the game hot, hitting all eight of their first field goal attempts. The two seniors for DePauw, Lattner and Jahn, led from the front as Lattner put up a game-high twelve points with Jahn adding ten points and a team-high seven rebounds and four assists.
Jahn believed the student section had an influence on the Tiger’s energy, and he says the team appreciates them for that. “The atmosphere was exuberant,” Jahn said. “Everyone was fired up and it always helps as a player to be able to feed off of the crowd energy. Oh, and shout out to the guys who spelled out my name on their chests (in paint).”
DePauw led by ten at the half and maintained and grew their lead throughout the second half. The Tigers outshot Wabash in all areas, from the floor, from three and from the free throw line.
First-year Carter Johnston was glad to get some revenge and momentum from the win. “Obviously playing our biggest rival, we were excited and ready to go,” Johnston said. “We felt like we let the last game against them slip away, so for us to dominate the whole 40 minutes was a great momentum boost going forward and a great send off for Luke (Lattner) and Nate (Jahn) as they finish their careers in Neal Fieldhouse.”
With less than a minute to go, Lattner capped off his home career with a memorable deep three just prior to being subbed out to a standing ovation. As the clock struck zero, the Tigers moved to 122-89-1 in the series against Wabash. Both teams sat at 11-13 and 7-10 in the NCAC in a deadlock for fifth place in the NCAC tournament.
The men then confidently traveled to Oberlin College on Saturday for their final regular season game. Oberlin hit ten of the 14 three pointers they attempted in the first half on their way to a 21-point lead that would be 17 at the half, leading 42-25. Senior Nate Jahn reflected on the first half against Oberlin with candor.
“The first half was brutal. We played bad and they came out hot,” Jahn said.
The tide would soon turn for DePauw, as they pulled off it’s second come from behind victory in the last three games. DePauw started the second half on a 15-5 run, and with 11 minutes remaining went on a game deciding 16-4 run, during which they went from trailing by five to leading by five with just over two minutes to play. The push was led by a major effort from VanderMerkt who scored a game high 23 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Lattner added 19. Jahn was pleased with how the team responded.
“We were able to manage the storm and fight back in the second half thanks to great efforts from (Jack) VanderMerkt and (Luke) Lattner. We played great team defense and we rebounded. When we do those two things, we expect good results,” Jahn said.
The win secured DePauw a 12-13 record for the Tigers and an 8-10 in conference record.