Photo provided by Wabash College Wabash junior Wes Smith ranks second in the North Coast Athletic Conference in scoring.
Photo provided by Wabash College

Wabash junior Wes Smith ranks second in the North Coast Athletic Conference in scoring.
Ben Burkett has eyed Sunday's game for the past month and a half.

Wabash College's junior center wants another chance to show the Little Giants can play with the top team in the North Coast Athletic Conference and in the Great Lakes Region.

Last time, they stayed with Wooster in the first half before turnovers did them in over the final 20 minutes.

This time around, Burkett remains adamant they won't let that happen to them again.

"We have to play two halves [against Wooster]," said Burkett, who scored a career-high 17 points Wednesday against conference rival Earlham. "Last time, our turnovers at the start of the second half hurt. We felt we hung with them and if we play like we have been in the second half of the season it could definitely be a lot better."

Conference rival Wooster (16-4, 11-0 NCAC) will travel to Wabash (13-6, 8-3 NCAC) for a 2 p.m. Sunday game.

Wooster has already beaten Wabash once this season, handing the Little Giants a 78-60 Dec. 20 road defeat. They forced the Little Giants into 12 turnovers - including seven in the second half .

The Scots lead the North Coast Athletic Conference by three games over the Little Giants with five games remaining.

This game gives Wabash a slim chance to get back in the hunt for the regular-season conference title. But it could also show them how close or far away they are from the conference tournament's top-seeded team.

"This game is huge," Little Giants' coach Mac Petty said.

Including their December win over the Little Giants, the Scots have won 11 games in a row - their last four by double-digit margins. They've jumped up all the way to first-place in the NCAA Great Lakes Region Regional rankings and have been led by North Coast Athletic Conference Player of the Year candidate Ian Franks.

Franks leads the team with his 18.1 points-per-game scoring average and ranks second in the conference in field-goal percentage (.550) and third in scoring. He finished with 21 points against the Little Giants the last time the two teams met.

They also have junior guard Nathan Balch (10.8 ppg), junior forward Bryan Wickliffe (10.6 ppg) and sophomore forward Justin Hallowell (10.3 ppg) who average in double figures. They're a dangerous shooting team and have plenty of players with quick hands (six steals against Wabash in their last game).

Wabash might try to counteract Wooster's quickness with its size. They did that against Earlham in Wednesday's 70-42 victory, dominating points in the paint (46-12) by driving inside and getting the ball down low to Burkett and senior forward Aaron Brock.

Petty tried a different starting line-up in Wednesday's game, going with 6-foot, 7-inch sophomore center Nick Curosh instead of 6-3 sophomore point guard Brian Shelbourne.

"I didn't think about Earlham. I just thought about making a change with different people off the bench and seeing what they could do," he said.

Surenkamp lights it up

Freshman guard Jordan Surenkamp might be able to provide the Little Giants with some outside relief.

He recorded his first points this season, coming off the bench to score six points in 14 minutes in Wednesday's win over conference rival Earlham. He went 2-of-3 from three-point range and also had a rebound and a personal foul.

After scoring 34 points in the junior varsity game Monday, Petty decided to give Surenkamp some increased playing time.

It marked Surenkamp's most substantial minutes this season. He played two minutes in a Jan. 2 win over Franklin and one minute in a Jan. 23 win over conference foe Oberlin.

"We need some outside scoring," Petty said. "Dominique [Thomas] and Andrew [Gilman] have done a good job for us but they're not making shots. We need someone to take the pressure off Chase [Haltom]."

Wabash's deadliest outside threat, Haltom has made 44 of 133 three-point field-goals (33.1 percent) this season. But his point totals have bounced around this season.

He reached double digits in five of the Little Giants' first six games, then was held to single-digits in four of their next five. Haltom has scored double figures in six of their last eight games, although he had just two points against Earlham on 1-of-5 shooting (0-of-4 from three-point range).

Bailey is back

Wabash junior Derek Bailey is back after suffering a concussion last month against conference rival Wittenberg.

Petty said he could have played Bailey (4.6 ppg) Wednesday night but decided to keep him out for precautionary reasons.