Men's basketball opens season with big win at home

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Thanks to a slew of injuries and the loss of some key seniors, the players that took the floor for the Tigers in their season opener against Franklin College Tuesday night didn’t have a ton of experience.

For four of the five Depauw starters, the 84-79 win over Franklin was their first experience with extended playing time. That didn’t stop sophomores David Vogel and Jake VandeMerkt from putting up solid performances.

“Injuries are always frustrating but there's nothing you can do about it,” junior Luke Lattner said. “We have to roll with the guys we got and make sure we are as good as we can be for when those guys get healthy and can help us out.”

After averaging just one minute per game last season, Vogel scored a career-high 19 points, including five three-pointers. VandeMerkt also set a new career best, with 15 points of his own.

“I was definitely pleased with how I played on the offensive end, it felt really good to get out there during the first game and hit some shots,” Vogel said. “It was nice to get a lot of minutes, especially after not playing a whole lot last season.”

As head Coach Bill Fenlon had warned, the defending North Coast Athletic Conference champs did come out with a little bit of rust.

After jumping out to a six point lead, they quickly surrendered the lead to the Grizzlies and trailed by four with 11 minutes to play in the first half.

The Tigers quickly responded, however, with an 8-0 run that pulled them ahead. Lattner led the way for the Tigers, scoring six points during the streak and getting to the rim three times.

The Tigers used that momentum and went into half with a 38-37 lead.

The second half proved to be even more of a back and forth contest. After expanding the lead with a commanding run to open the half, the Grizzlies quickly stormed back to tie the game at 46.

Things stayed tight, but the Tigers took the lead for good with just over nine and a half minutes to play thanks to a pair of plays in transition. The Grizzlies pulled back within two at 78-76 with just over a minute to play, but Lattner hit three key free throws down the stretch to secure the win for the Tigers.

Lattner led the way for the Tigers, with a game-high 27 points, including 16 in the first half with senior Bradley Fey recording a team-high five assists coming off of the bench.

“The bench was big for us,” Fey said. “We tried to make it a point to give energy whenever we're out on the floor.”

Lattner emerged as a potent offensive weapon at the midpoint last season, and with several key departures, he’ll likely be who the Tigers turn to for offense again this year. Those 27 points are an encouraging sign for this group of young, inexperienced Tigers.

After losing 6-foot-9 Tommy Fernitz to graduation, VandeMerkt grabbed a team-high six rebounds for the Tigers. DePauw’s numbers on the glass were far more spread out than in years past, as the Tigers outrebounded the Grizzlies by eight.

For DePauw, the win marks a good start as they look to defend their conference title and go deeper into the NCAA tournament after getting bounced in the second round a year ago.

“It was huge to start off with a win,” Vogel said. “Coach talked to us about how the season is a learning process, and it's a lot more fun when you win.”

That learning process will continue this weekend when the Tigers play a pair of games in the Lopata Classic in St. Loius. The Tigers get the tournament started tonight when they take on Johns Hopkins University at 6:00 p.m. CST.