Bishops’ late comeback falls short

By Peter Lujan

Transcript Correspondent

The game appeared to be spiraling out of control halfway through the first half for Ohio Wesleyan’s men in their basketball matchup against Wabash College Wednesday night.

The Bishops’ trailed the Little Giants of Wabash 24-7, but they stepped up the pace before the half ended and also in the second half. Although it was close at the end, it still wasn’t enough and OWU lost in Branch Rickey Arena with a final score of 80-77.

Senior guard Jaret Gerber led the way for the Bishops, scoring 17 points on the strength of five three-pointers.

The poor start was partially due to the Bishops’ shooting 5 of 22 from the 3-point range in the first half. That shot eluded the Bishops as they finished the game shooting 11 of 44 from 3-point range.

“Our offense is very high volume, we take a lot of shots, we shoot a lot of threes.  Some nights, it’s just not going in,” said freshman guard Jack Clement.

During the second half, Gerber and Clement created momentum after trailing at the half, 37-31. A layup by Clement tied the game at 39 after a quick 8-2 run to start the second half.

“When we’re out there running, when we’re getting up and down, that’s when we’re at our best,” Clement said.

The Bishops’ and Little Giants’ battled for the rest of the game, but Wabash was able to maintain a double-digit lead for the most part. Freshman point guard Bryson Lane hit some very important shots down the stretch, scoring 11 points in the second half.

The Bishops relied on the strength of their defense and the hot hand of Gerber down the stretch.

“When Gerb gets hot, he gets hot,” Clement said.

Gerber knocked down three triples. The Bishops’ aggressive play brought the team within one point with 14 seconds left, forcing them to foul Tyler Watson of Wabash. Watson nailed both free throws to give the Little Giants’ a 3-point lead with 11 seconds left.

The Bishops’ had one last chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, but a heavily guarded corner three from Lane was no good. Time expired and the Bishops’ had come up just short.

“We drew up a really good play, we just didn’t get open,” Clement said.

The Bishops’ next game is at 3 p.m. Saturday against Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio.

Getting in the groove

By Peter Lujan

Transcript Correspondent

The Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team burst from the gate Saturday afternoon, playing with tempo and shooting the lights out in defeating DePauw University 77-55 at Branch Rickey Arena.

The victory extended the Battling Bishops’ winning streak to three. Freshman power forward Grant Spicer led the charge with 16 points and seven rebounds, shooting 77% from the field. Spicer said it was part of the team’s game plan.

“One thing we like to go to is just throwing it into the post,” Spicer said. “Not necessarily even to score all the time, but to just play out of the post.”

It was a different story Jan. 15, when the Bishops struggled in the first half of their last game in Kenyon against Kenyon College, scoring only two points in the first ten minutes of the game. In the first half, the Bishops shot just 62% from the field and 50% from three-point range.

One key for Saturday’s win was to move the ball better and get it from sideline to sideline a couple of times, Spicer said.

“DePauw is a very good defensive team and that’s what you have to do to really good defensive teams like that,” he said.

The long ball was huge for the Bishops Saturday night, with six out of the ten players ringing up three-point field goals. It’s a big part of the team’s offense, said freshman guard Jack Clement.

“Our offense is built around the three point shot, mainly because all five guys who are out there on the floor are able to hit that shot,” Clement said.

Coach Mike DeWitt trusts his players to make those shots because of their chemistry, Spicer said.

“[ He] knows we all have the ability to knock down open shots,” Spicer said. “As soon as somebody gets hot, everyone starts to get into a groove.”

With a focus on pushing the tempo of the game and playing fast, the Bishops ensured DePauw paid for its errors Saturday. The Bishops’ scored 16 points off DePauw’s turnovers while DePauwscored only 2 points off the Bishops’ turnovers.

Clement said the team does agood job of taking care of the ball.

“So we make it a point in our offense to make sure that we capitalize off of turnovers that we do cause,” he said. “So if they make a turnover, we want to make sure that they pay for that, because that’s just a free possession.”

The Bishops will try to extend their winning streak Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio.

NCAA denies OWU men’s basketball

By Evan Walsh, Chief Copy Editor

Despite finishing the year with 21 wins and a conference championship appearance, the Bishops were not chosen to compete in this year’s Division III National Tournament.

Ohio Wesleyan defeated Kenyon and Wittenberg en route to the NCAC championship game.

However, their 14-game win streak came to an end against College of Wooster in front of a home crowd on Saturday evening.

Down by 21 points at the half, OWU rallied late for a comeback. But it was not enough as the

Fighting Scots held on to beat OWU 76-72.

OWU can still call itself NCAC champions since they had the best regular season record.

That marks 2016-17 as the third consecutive year OWU has earned that title.

The decision not to include OWU was made Monday afternoon. It took some players and fans of the program by surprise.

Captain Ben Simpson, a senior, said he was disappointed by the news, but not entirely surprised.

“I was nervous about [tournament prospects] and thought that we had about a 50/50 chance of making it in,” Simpson said.

Athletic Director Roger Ingles said he shared some of Simpson’s disappointment.

“The NCAA selection process sometimes can seem very unfair. Our men’s team is the first NCAC regular season championship team to be left out of the tournament since the early 1990’s,” Ingles said.

It is likely that early, out of conference losses to weaker teams, hurt OWU’s National Tournament chances.

“The process is based on strength of schedule, won-loss record, opponent’s strength of schedule and success, games and won-loss versus regionally ranked opponents,” Ingles said

With the win, Wooster qualifies automatically and will be the only team representing the conference at the tournament.

Simpson, Eugene Coleman, Jon Griggs and Erick Bryant are among the team’s seniors. They turn the reigns over to Academic All-American Nate Axelrod and fellow captain Seth Clark.

Simpson said he felt positive about his experience. Quoting Dr. Seuss, Simpson said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball roll past the College of Wooster

By Aleksei Pavloff, Sports Editor

The Ohio Wesleyan University men’s basketball climbed to the top of the NCAC standings with a win against the College of Wooster on Feb. 11.

Senior Ben Simpson and junior Nate Axelrod contributed nearly 50 points combined in the win against the conference rival. In the previous game, when the Bishops played the Scots, the score was 99-76.

The lingering thought of the last time these two teams met motivated the Bishops and the hard work and preparation paid off with the score 81-72.

“We realized that this was a big one with only a few games left,” said sophomore Chris Allocco. “We needed to not make the same mistakes as last time.”

“The main thing we needed to change was our competitiveness,” said Axelrod.

“We just wore them down throughout the game.”

The Scots did not just give in. At the half, the score was Wooster leading 38-30.

That did not faze the team, however. They went from scoring 39.9 percent of their three-point shots in the first half to 52.94 percent.

“Throughout the game, we trusted the process even when we were down,” Axelrod said. “We had faith in each other and we knew we would give them a run for their money.”

At the end of the game, Simpson and Axelrod had stand-out performances and together contributed 49 points, 7 assists and 4 blocks. They also recorded 37 minutes played in the game.

One aspect that influenced the game was the fans or as they should be called the “Sixth Man.”

“The fans are a great help. They really gave us the energy we needed,” said Axelrod.

“The fans were great,” said Allocco. “The combination of senior night and the stakes in the game made the atmosphere that much better.”

There is no looking back. The Bishops are now in the driver’s seat in the NCAC and are looking forward to the possibility of meeting the Fighting Scots one more time. Both Allocco and Axelrod believe that the teams will play again. But only time will tell.

“If things go the way we want, we will definitely play them again,” said Axelrod. “I have no doubt we will come out with the same energy again.”

Men’s basketball finishes sweetly and strong

By Aleksei Pavloff, Sports Editor

Seth Clark and the Ohio Wesleyan University’s men’s basketball team stayed consistent with another conference win over the DePauw Tigers on Jan. 21.

Earlier in the week, the men’s team played Wittenberg at home with the final score 76-70.

After beating their conference foe, the team’s intentions were clear heading into the game versus DePauw.

“We knew that DePauw would be tough, but we knew that we had to stay focused,” said sophomore guard Chris Allocco. “We also knew we had to strike early to set the tone.”

The Bishops never seemed to pull away from the Tigers as they trailed by 9 points at the half.

However, the DePauw Tigers tried to claw their way back in the second half, but still fell short with the final score 79-72.

“They are a good team that plays hard,” said junior point guard Nate Axelrod, who contributed 13 points to the win. “They have improved a lot since last time we played them. Their shooting guard is the lead scoring in the league so we had to put pressure on him.”

Axelrod’s performance seemed to be the key in the close win over DePauw. He played for 33 minutes of the game.

Teammate wing Law Jones said Axelrod’s ability to control the offense helped set the team up for success.

“It’s also fun to watch him play,” Jones said.

However, Axelrod was not the only factor in the win. Junior guard Seth Clark scored 31 points.

“It’s not a surprise to see [Clark] play like that,” Jones said. “It was fun to watch him hit everything on offense and lockdown on defense. I hope he will keep it going for the rest of the season.”

As of now, the Bishops are 10-2 in the NCAC and have a 13-6 overall record.

Men’s basketball back on track after NCAC victory

By Matt Maier, Transcript Reporter

With fall sports wrapping up last week, the winter season is upon us and the men’s basketball team is in full force.

Opening their season with a game against Albion College Nov. 18, the Battling Bishops won 91-77 with help from players like Ben Simpson and Will Orr. Simpson led the Bishops with 21 points.

“The main thing that I do is watch film and determine how I can exploit my matchup,” Simpson said. “I love determining what I can do as a player to get the whole team involved as well.”

A day later, the Bishops played Trine University and won 79-72. This time, it was Orr who led the Bishops with 21 points, making seven of his 13 attempts from long range.

“I really just get my body ready mentally and physically,” Orr said.

“During pre-game, I shoot and make sure that I am knocking down my shots.”

Since the Trine game, the Bishops hit a three-game losing streak, losing to opponents like Capital, Illinois Wesleyan and Otterbein.

Against Capital, the men’s team lost 76-82; against Illinois Wesleyan, they lost 70-88 and against Otterbein, the men’s team fell short 66-72. But coach Mike DeWitt said he is optimistic about the future.

“Right now we just need to trust the process and trust each other,” DeWitt said. “If we can do that, we’ll get better as the season progresses and be a good team.”

Orr said, “I think we just need to remain a family, continue to trust each other and all use a boost of confidence to get through this.”

The Bishops beat DePauw in a close game with a score of 84-71 on Dec. 3. In this game, it was Simpson who led the team with 25 points.

Reflecting on a record-breaking season

Ross Hickenbottom, Sports Editor

“Fun.” “Immaculate.” “Unforgettable.”

Those were some of the words Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team used to describe the record-breaking season that, just as every other season without an NCAA Championship, ended too soon.

The team traveled to Lisle, Illinois on March 11 for their game against Benedictine, who handed them their fifth and final loss of the season.

“I have never enjoyed the game so much in my life,” said senior Matt Jeske.  “All of that is attributed to my exceptional teammates, coaches and the chemistry between all of us.”

Along with Jeske, the underclassmen will say goodbye to three other seniors, as well as key players: Claude Grey, Zak Davis and Joey Kinsley.

Jeske has “no doubt that the work ethic and desire for success will remain constant, and these guys can have an even better season next year.”

Sophomore Seth Clark, junior Ben Simpson and Nate Axelrod, who was recently named Division II All-American, said they are ready to continue the winning tradition they have experienced for the past two years.

Simpson, who finished the season averaging a double-double and shooting .567 from the field, said, “This team this past year was probably one of the teams we’ve had here at OWU, and we will play with a chip on our shoulder next year.”

Seth Clark is one of the younger guys on the team and has scored 15.5 points per game and 30 out of 30 games played.

He said he also believes that the underclassmen on the team learned positive habits and consistency through this season’s seniors. “We have some young guys [who] have learned from the seniors and are ready to take on a bigger role,” Clark said.

Coach Mike DeWitt said he credits his strong winning tradition to the “quality of players I’ve had the opportunity to coach here.”

Jeske said DeWitt taught him “a lot throughout the years, but most importantly, he has shown me how to expect success, yet be humble when it comes.”

Along with some new faces, the All-NCAC trio of Simpson, Clark and Axelrod said they are looking forward to picking up where they left off next season.

Mixed results for OWU’s basketball teams

Leia Miza, Transcript Reporter

A bittersweet note was left at Branch Rickey Stadium on Jan. 24  as Ohio Wesleyan University’s women’s team was defeated and the men’s team triumphed over Denison University.

The women’s team went first against Denison and kept the score close throughout.

By the end of the game, the team faced challenges, which resulted in a loss.

“I was pleased with our rebounding effort in the first half, but they just wore us down in the fourth quarter,” said Stacey Lobdell, coach of the women’s team at OWU.

Rylie Pittard, a freshman on the women’s team, said, “throughout the game it was pretty even for both teams, we would score and then they would counter it.”

The players forced 21 turnovers and 13 steals, but the defensive effort still resulted in a 58-42 loss for the Battling Bishops.

The Ohio Wesleyan men's basketball team beat Denison, 82-76, this past Saturday. Photo courtesy of Sara Blake.
The Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team beat Denison, 82-76, this past Saturday. Photo courtesy of Sara Blake.

Immediately after the women clashed, the OWU men’s basketball team came onto the court and began warming up. The stands filled with more fans and foot-stomping and chanting filled the stadium.

The scores between both teams remained close throughout the first half. But near the end of the game, there was a major turning point.

“The team went down by seven points with five minutes left in the game and we went on scoring run, took the lead and won the game,” said senior team captain Claude Gray.

This was a good test for the team as it gave it a chance to “show we have heart,” Gray said.

“I was just glad me and the team could pull together and do the things needed to be done to win the game. I’m looking forward to seeing the team keep improving.”

Axelrod, men’s basketball open season with high hopes

By: Evan Walsh, Transcript correspondent

Nate Axelrod '18. Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.
Nate Axelrod ’18. Photo courtesy of the Battling Bishops website.

In basketball, size matters.

Don’t tell sophomore Nate Axelrod that. Despite his small stature, last year’s National Freshman of the Year is ready to lead the Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team to another conference title.

“I’m not tall,” Axelrod said. “But you can’t let what you don’t have define you.”

Axelrod has found other ways to compensate for his size, or lack thereof. With technical precision that belies his 5’7 frame, the young man from Dublin, Ohio, has spent his life developing his skill set as a player.

“He’s constantly looking for ways to improve. Coaches and other players appreciate a blue collar work ethic,” said Matt Jeske, a senior forward and team captain.

That hard work bore fruit in a 2014-­2015 season in which he took home National Freshman of the Year, First Team all NCAC and Third Team All-­American honors. No small feat for a small man.

Still, basketball is a team game, and Axelrod knows his personal accomplishments mean nothing when it comes to the team’s success. “I get to suffer through the emotional highs and lows with my best friends, my teammates,” Axelrod said. “I need their support. Without it I never could have won those awards.”

Coach Mike Dewitt draws comparisons to former Battling Bishop and All-­American, Andy Winters, class of 2013. “Both guys are undersized, but they work hard to control the rhythm of the game by getting teammates involved,” Dewitt said.

“It’s his selflessness that separates Nate from the other players and young men I’ve coached,” Dewitt said. “He’s a leader in everything he does.”

Axelrod is an equally capable student, making the Dean’s List each semester while mentoring at-risk students for several hours each week.

Through the first three weeks of practice Axelrod is optimistic about this year’s team. All five of last years starters return this year and look to redeem themselves after last year’s loss to St. Olaf College in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament.

“We’re going to win the regular season conference title and the conference championship,” Axelrod said.

The No. 13 ranked team in the nation open their begin their season Saturday, Nov. 14 against conference rival, Otterbein University.

Men’s basketball beats Oberlin 83-66

Junior wing Zak Davis passes the ball under the basket. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.
Junior wing Zak Davis passes the ball under the basket. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.

It was a matchup that had been played twice before, and this time wasn’t very different from the others.

But this round was worth more – after their third win against Oberlin College, the Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team will advance to the North Coast Athletic Conference’s tournament semifinals against DePauw University.

The women’s basketball team was also playing at Oberlin during this game, and won 75 to 58 with a career-high 24 points from junior Emily Julius.

Like the men’s team, they’ll face DePauw next, but the OWU women’s team lost against them 74-69 in their previous matchup.

The men’s game will be this week on Feb. 27 at 8:30 in Branch Rickey Arena.

In the regular season, DePauw took on the OWU men’s team twice, and lost both times – first on January 17, 76-64, and again on February 21, 86-77.

“We know we’re playing a really good team, we’re going to enjoy this one tonight and start getting ready for DePauw tomorrow,” said men’s team head coach Mike DeWitt.

Coach Mike DeWitt watches the play. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey
Coach Mike DeWitt watches the play. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey

“…Being the regular season champions is, you know, obviously a good thing. We’re on to our next goal now, which is to try to win the conference tournament.”

The men’s team has three consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament as well, and DeWitt said he hopes for a fourth, which they’ll automatically get if they win the conference tournament.

If they don’t win, they find out if they get an at-large spot March 2.

DeWitt said the team relies greatly from having a wide range of talent; in the regular season four of their five starters averaged more than 12 points a game. Junior post Claude Gray led with 19.8 per game; in this game he had 31 points.

“We have a lot of different weapons, we have a lot of different guys that can do a lot of different things,” DeWitt said. “That’s our biggest strength as a team.”

“I think the best way to describe this group is they are really a true team,” said athletic director Roger Ingles. “You had four different kids this year that were player of the week in the conference – you can’t just shut down one guy.”

What they don’t have a lot of, though, are seniors – there’s one on the whole roster, senior starter Nick Felhaber.

The team reacts to junior post Claude Gray's fast break score. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.
The team reacts to junior post Claude Gray’s fast break score. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.

“It’s been interesting, really we’ve got a lot of guys who play like seniors so it doesn’t feel like I’m the only senior,” Felhaber said.

“He’s a great senior, he’s a great leader and we’re going to miss him once he graduates,” DeWitt said about Felhaber.

At the start of the year, Felhaber said, OWU was predicted to finish fourth, so finishing first has been a great experience.

On the other end is starting guard Nate Axelrod, a freshman, but he said the team’s welcomed him into the ranks.

“To be honest, it was a little nerve-wracking…coming into college, new teammates, new players I’m playing against.”

Looking toward the Friday night game, Axelrod said it’d be a “great feeling” to be at home with fellow students behind him and the team.

Ingles added he hopes “a lot of folks from the university” support them, including students. The current Weather Channel forecast puts the Friday night temperature at -7℉, with a 10 percent chance of snow.

Junior post Matt Jeske shoots a free throw. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.
The team reacts to junior post Claude Gray’s fast break score. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.
Sophomore wing Ben Simpson jumps past Oberlin guard Ian Campbell. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.
Sophomore wing Ben Simpson jumps past Oberlin guard Ian Campbell. Photo courtesy of Spenser Hickey.