LEXINGTON, Ky.—Plagued by shooting woes, the 13th-ranked Birmingham-Southern men's basketball team lost in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Division III Tournament to No. 22 Wittenberg, 63-56, Friday evening in the Beck Center on the campus of Transylvania University in Lexington, Ky.
The Panthers end the season at 25-3, while the Tigers move to 22-6 and advance to face the winner of the game between host Transylvania and Carroll University.
It was a game that seemed it would never start, getting delayed over two hours due to tornado warnings in the area. Once it finally tipped off, just past 8 p.m. Eastern time, the Tigers jumped out to an early 7-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game before the Panthers steadily fought back, tying it up 14-14 on a layup by junior forward Zac Richards at the 11:38 mark, and taking the lead on a made free throw by Richards on the same play. The teams traded baskets after that, with the Panthers leading by three several times but the Tigers staying right on their heels and eventually taking back the lead down the stretch to lead 34-31 at halftime.
Junior guard Blaise White hit 4-of-6 in the first 20 minutes, all from long-range, for 13 points. Wittenberg shot nearly 57 percent from the field in the first half to BSC's 35.7 percent.
Wittenberg came out shooting in the second half, hitting the first two buckets to go up 38-31, and would stay a step or two ahead of BSC the rest of the way, going up by as much as nine with 5:25 remaining. The Panthers made it exciting down the stretch, with sophomore Griffin Schamp hitting a jumper to cut it to two, 58-56, with 55 seconds left.
The Panthers fouled after that, Wittenberg missed the front end of the one-and-one at the free throw line and Richards pulled down the rebound, but BSC turned it over with 32 seconds and was forced to foul the Tigers. Wittenberg hit one-of-two at the line to go up by three but give the Panthers the ball after that, but BSC turned it over again with 23 seconds left and was forced to foul again. The Tigers hit both free throws to go up by five, and BSC missed a three-pointer on its possession. Wittenberg got the rebound and BSC fouled once more, sending the Tigers to the free throw line for the final time, where they hit both to go up by seven.
White led BSC with 13 points, held scoreless in the entire second half, followed by Richards with 12 points and Jonus with 11. White and senior Caleb Lee led with five rebounds each, and White led with four assists and three steals.
The Panthers were out-shot in every category, hitting 35.3 percent from the field (Wittenberg shot 53.8 percent), 40 percent from three-point range (the Tigers hit 43.8 percent) and 62.5 percent from the free throw line to Wittenberg's 77.8 percent showing.
The Tigers also out-rebounded BSC 32-25. BSC did commit fewer turnovers than Wittenberg with 11 to the Tigers' 15.