Photo provided by Wabash College Wabash sophomore A.Z. Zinnerman averages 5.4 points and 1.5 assists off the bench.
Photo provided by Wabash College

Wabash sophomore A.Z. Zinnerman averages 5.4 points and 1.5 assists off the bench.
Wabash College's men's basketball team has a prime opportunity move back into the North Coast Athletic Conference race this weekend.

With games against two of the conference's top four teams, the Little Giants could leapfrog out of the bottom of the conference standings and jump into the title hunt.

They're back at home, where they're undefeated. They're coming off a holiday break home win and riding a wave of confidence.

But sophomore guard A.Z. Zinnerman thinks it's time they finally put together a complete game - filled with 40 minutes of energy, hustle and heart.

"We need to play 40 minutes of basketball. Most games we've only played one half hard," Zinnerman said. "We need to play 20 minutes in the first half hard and strong and come out in the second half and give them 20 more minutes."

Conference rival Hiram (5-6, 2-0 NCAC) travels to Wabash (5-5, 0-2 NCAC) for today's 7:30 p.m. game at Chadwick Court, while conference foe Allegheny (5-5, 2-0 NCAC) takes on the Little Giants at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Hiram and Allegheny are tied for second-place in the conference standings, trailing co-leaders Wooster (3-0 NCAC) and Denison (3-0 NCAC) by a game.

Hiram hasn't played a conference game in more than a month. The Terriers have dropped three of their past four games, losing to Rutgers University (Newark) 89-85 and Marymount (Va.) University 71-67 at this past weekend's Marymount (Va.) University Tournament. They haven't won since Dec. 9 in a 68-65 victory over Grove City (Pa.) College.

Meanwhile, Wabash sits in seventh-place in the 10-team conference standings thanks to its two conference road losses to Wooster and Denison. Oberlin, Ohio Wesleyan and Kenyon are tied for last-place with 0-3 records.

This weekend, though, the Little Giants play both conference opponents at home. They're a perfect 3-0 at Chadwick Court this season and have outscored opponents there by an average of 23 points per game.

They're coming off a 29-point thumping of in-state rival Franklin College this past Saturday. They still didn't have that full 40 minutes of effort, though, in that game - allowing the Grizzlies to shoot 59 percent in the second half after holding them to just 28 percent in the first half.

Wabash did most of its damage inside and from the free-throw line. Tonight, they'll need their interior presence to come up huge again.

Senior forward Aaron Brock (11.4 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game) and junior center Ben Burkett (8.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg) will need to patrol the middle against Hiram's dominant post players.

Ranked second in the conference in rebounding offense, the Terriers average 38.2 rebounds per game - including nearly 14 on the offensive end (also second in the conference).

Junior forward Babajide Eniola is second in the conference in rebounding (8.5 per game). He trails only Kenyon's Dave Knapke (9.3 per game) in that department.

Eniola has pulled down 33 offensive rebounds (3.0 per game) and the team averages 11 offensive boards per contest.

"They're real good on the boards, offensively and defensively. We need to keep them off the boards and find guys to block out and play how we know we can play," said Burkett, a 2007 Southmont High School graduate. "We cannot let them get easy baskets. We know they like to take outside shots and we need to get our hands up on those outside shots. We have to block out so they can't get any extra shot opportunities."

Brock agreed. They need to get a body on the Terriers' inside men.

"[Hiram] rebounds the ball very well. We have to be able to defend for a full possession and finish that possession with a rebound and do our sets on offense," he said. "If we do those things, we should be right there and get another win at home."

As for Allegheny (5-5, 2-0 NCAC), the Gators ended a three-game losing streak Tuesday with their 89-57 victory over conference rival Kenyon. The win moved them into the second-place tie with the Terriers. They'll take conference foe Earlham today before Saturday's game against Wabash.