They wanted it more.
The Big Red defended their home court in a dominant performance during this past Wednesday’s contest against Ohio Wesleyan to improve their record on the season to 11-9 (7-6 NCAC).
After completely outplaying a talented Bishops squad on both sides of the floor for 40 minutes, the final score read 83-62 in Denison’s favor.
Denison’s suffocating defense and commitment to the game plan forced Ohio Wesleyan out of their comfort zone on offense and really opened the floor up for the Big Red on the other end.
With a fast paced and competitive first half, guard Jack Coulter ‘20 and forward Max Siwik ‘18 carried the load offensively. After each of them knocked down two three-pointers in four consecutive possessions at the 7:30 minute mark, the Big Red pulled ahead 25-21 and never looked back.
Denison shot 8-15 from three-point range in the first half. Siwik and Coulter led the way and contributed to their 41-25 halftime lead.
“We did a good job of hedging the high ball screens and making it tough on their All-American Point Guard, Nate Axelrod,” said Head Coach Bob Ghiloni on the success of their defensive schemes.
The Big Red held Axelrod, the leading scorer in Division III at over 19 points per game, to just 9 points on 3-7 shooting for the game.
The Bishops are known for their strong shooting range, and truly live or die by the three with 37 three point attempts per game.
Ghiloni stressed that the team knew all too well how dangerous the Bishops could be from outside on offense. He added, “We told our guys to run them off the three point line.”
Clearly, the Big Red got the message.
However, you need to do more than just force a team out of their comfort zone to hold them to a season-low 62 points.
Hustle and energy.
Denison players were sacrificing their bodies and laying out over the entire floor all game to win loose balls and earn extra possessions.
They simply wanted it more. And it showed.
Siwik knew that the team’s mindset had to be solid, especially since this was a rematch against one of the conference’s best teams, who they had fallen short against the road earlier in the season.
“After some tough losses, we knew we had to be more mentally focused and hold each other more accountable. We’ve been talking about what we need to do better, but actions speak louder than words. Last night we wanted to show what we knew we were capable of,” said Siwik.
Siwik, the team’s leading scorer on the season, led the way once again on Wednesday with 21 points and strong backboard action, including five three-pointers and five rebounds in 28 minutes on the court.
Coulter knocked down some very timely three-pointers to swing the momentum back in favor of the Big Red throughout the game. He finished the game with 16 points in an incredibly efficient 23 minutes, shooting five for six from the field and four for five from the three point line.
He explained the mentality he carried on the court night in and night out.
“I really just look to my teammates and our offense to get good looks and I just take the open shot. We have a great group of selfless guys who will do anything to win. When we’re all on the same page and we look to each other to get open looks the game comes a lot easier.”
Coulter and the rest of his team answered any questions any doubters might have about this year’s squad. The only question that remains is how they can build off of this win and continue their stellar play.
Ghiloni noted that the team’s success will be totally dependant upon the mental edge they bring into each game.
“We need to keep the edge no matter where we go, no matter who we play — mental as well as physical. I have never once doubted the physical abilities of our guys this season,” said Ghiloni.
One thing this team wants you to know, do not sleep on their ability, especially if they are able to bring the same fiery intensity onto the court as the season continues.
Although they came up just short in an incredible back-and-forth game against Wooster this past Saturday, falling 73-70, this team showed once again that they are more than capable of matching up against the top teams in the conference.
The Big Red will be in action away on campus on Saturday against Allegheny at 3 pm.