Men’s basketball flips the script with second half comeback against Kenyon
The Tigers entered the week seventh in the NCAC standings and hanging on a thread to make the conference tournament.
Starting at a seven-point halftime deficit Saturday against Kenyon College, the team needed to mount a second-half comeback to hold this position in the conference. Behind 21 second half points by senior Luke Lattner, the Tigers were able to put together their second halftime comeback of the season to maintain seventh-place in the conference.
The team began the week against the best team in the NCAC with 23rd ranked Denison University at home on Wednesday. In front of a larger than average crowd, the Tigers fell to an early 14-5 deficit. With a nice surge from the second-unit triggered by junior James Clarke and sophomore Andrew Kus, the team was able to quickly cut Denison’s lead to 20-17 with 7:40 remaining. The Tigers kept the momentum rolling until Lattner beat the buzzer with a three-pointer from the wing to give Depauw a 34-32 lead at halftime.
The Big Red responded to DePauw’s stellar half with a strong shooting performance out of the gate in the second half. They quickly retook the lead and led by 41-39 with 15 minutes remaining. The entire second-half, DePauw couldn’t overcome missed looks in the paint and Denison offensive rebounds. After the Big Red took a 56-50 lead with just under ten minutes left on the clock, the game was never closer than five points. The Tigers fell 70-62 behind 16 points by Lattner and nine points by senior Chris Burrough.
“That was a tough loss,” Kus said. “That’s the second time this season we had a chance to beat the best team in the conference. The positive is that it shows we can beat anyone once we make the conference tournament.”
DePauw then went on the road to take on Kenyon in a pivotal matchup. The Tigers, at the time, held a one-game lead on both Kenyon and Allegheny College for seventh-place in the conference. A poor end to the season could have left the Tigers out of the conference tournament.
The team struggled in the first half defensively and fell to a quick 22-16 deficit after a Kenyon layup. With 3:12 left to go in the half, DePauw held their biggest deficit of the game at 36-25 after two made free throws by Kenyon.
The Tigers seized their first lead since 14:29 in the first half after a Lattner layup with 12:47 to go. From that point on it was the Lattner show, who put up all 21 of his points in the second half off of 6-12 shooting. The team did not give up the lead from 12:13 on and finally won 73-68 snapping a seven-game losing streak.
“It was a big win,” sophomore John Starkey said, who scored six points off the bench. “We needed a win to boost the morale and I think we can gain some momentum entering the tournament.”
During this seven-game losing streak, second half letdowns have become one of the leading concerns with the team. After losing a halftime lead against Denison earlier in the week, it was important for the team to show the ability to perform in the second half.
“That was arguably the most important half of the season,” said Clarke. “Our next step as a team is playing like that in every second half of the season. If we can be consistent in doing that, we can be dangerous in the tournament.”
The Tigers improve their record to 10-13 overall and 6-10 in the NCAC. They take on Wabash College at home on Wednesday for a huge matchup to decide conference tournament seeding. The Tigers could end up anywhere between fifth and eighth seed depending on how they close out their last two games.
“Seeding is everything,” Kus said. “We’ve got to win these last two games and try to get that fifth seed. If we do that, watch out.”