HIRAM, Ohio - On a day that celebrated the six members of the Hiram College men's basketball team, the Terriers made perhaps their biggest statement of the season, upending previously unbeaten Wittenberg University, 94-71, on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers came into the game ranked No. 3 in the latest D3hoops.com Top 25, the highest-ranked program to take on the Terriers in Price Gymnasium in the tenure of head coach Chris Kibler.
"I thought we went out there and executed our game plan extremely well," remarked Kibler, whose Terrier teams have now toppled two, top-five opponents (Hiram defeated No. 4 Ohio Wesleyan, 74-72 in 2015-16). "Every single player went out there and contributed in a big way. It was absolutely a team effort."
Celebrating their last regular-season home Saturday contest, both seniors Kelvin Jones and Terrence Warren, helped shoulder the offensive workload.
Jones finished the game by matching a season high with 25 points. He finished 11-of-13 from the field while also grabbing eight rebounds. With his point total, Jones moved into 12th on Hiram's all-time scoring list (1,242), passing the legendary Bill Meyer, who had his jersey retired by the Terriers earlier this season.
Warren, meanwhile, orchestrated the offense nicely, tallying seven assists to go along with 18 points on six-of-eight shooting.
Offensively, the Terriers shot with efficiency throughout the entirety of the matchup, posting a .603 shooting percentage (35-58), their best mark of 2017-18. The Terriers also knocked down 10 triples, shooting just below 50% from long distance.
Hiram trailed just once in the early stages of the game as Wittenberg opened the scoring on a three by Mitchell Balser. Balser kept the Tigers afloat throughout the game, knocking down six triples and scoring 24 points.
Senior Isaiah Matthews was the first Terrier to make his mark on the game, canning a pair of triples in an 8-1 Hiram run that pushed the hosts in front.
With the score cut back to one point (12-11), the Terriers used an 8-0 swing that was sparked by a steal and fast-break dunk from freshman Jalen Kirksey. Sophomores Austin Blatt and Brevin Dye also added baskets to the swing, which staked Hiram to a 20-11 lead with 9:45 remaining in the half.
A flurry of points would follow, with Balser knocking down a pair of triples in the next three minutes. However, Hiram would respond in kind, with Dye and Blatt each connecting from long distance to keep the lead at 11 (30-19).
The first half advantage would grow to as many as 12 (37-25), before settling on a 10-point lead at the break (40-30).
Seven different players scored a basket for Hiram in the opening half, led by nine from Jones. Blatt added eight points, while Dye and Matthews chipped in with six, each.
The halftime adjustments that were made seemed to favor the Terriers, as Hiram expanded their lead to 18 (55-37) in the first three minutes of the frame. Jones scored the first two buckets of the half on back-to-back possessions, before Warren added five points and Blatt, another three.
The second half would belong to the senior duo as Warren and Jones combined for 30 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the field.
The rout was on with 10 minutes to play as a fast-break three-point play from Warren, along with another basket by Jones made the score 68-45. From there, the Hiram advantage would not shrink below 14, before settling on the 94-71 final.
Throughout the game, the Terriers were able to outwork the Tigers inside the paint. Hiram held a 46-26 advantage in paint points, and also outrebounded Wittenberg 35-22. The Tigers came into the game ranked first in the NCAC in rebounding margin (+10.0).
The Hiram offense saw continued success throughout the entirety of the game against a Wittenberg squad that came into the contest first in the conference in both scoring defense (65.4) and opponents' field-goal percentage (.407).
The six seniors who were honored before the game all played a part in the win. Paul Ortiz tallied nine points in a starting role, while Matthews finished his day with eight. Jake Williams added three points, including a dunk, while Anton Gross chipped in with a pair of assists and a steal in seven minutes of action.
With the victory, Hiram has guaranteed themselves a winning record for the second time in Kibler's first four years at the helm. Having just coached in his 100th game this afternoon, Kibler has posted the best mark of any coach (55-45) through his first 100 in program history.
The Terrier's win, also coupled with a loss by Ohio Wesleyan to Wooster this evening, also puts Hiram back in the running for third in the NCAC standings with just one week to play in the regular season.
Hiram will be back in action on Wednesday, Feb. 14, as they play host to Denison University. The matchup with the Big Red is slated for a 7:30 p.m. start.