The NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship is coming to The College of Wooster again, as 3,400-seat Timken Gymnasium will serve as a host site for a first-round game this Saturday, March 2. It marks the fourth year in a row the Fighting Scots have played a home game in the national tourney, and this time they'll welcome Penn State Behrend (20-8), champions of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference. Wooster received an at-large bid to the NCAA field after losing in the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament championship game, 76-66 to Ohio Wesleyan University. The Fighting Scots and the Lions will tip-off at 7 p.m., with the winner advancing to next Saturday's second round, where it will face either Dickinson College (20-7) or Marietta College (20-7).
Ticket Information: As determined by the NCAA, ticket prices for this Saturday's first round are $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens, students, and children (under two are free). There will be no advanced ticket sales and the gates open at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Also, artificial noisemakers are prohibited.
College of Wooster students, please note that you can be part of the excitement for free (just present your College ID to receive a ticket), courtesy of the president's office. In fact, President Grant Cornwell encourages your attendance, "Students, be sure to get to the game early to make sure we have a loud and proud student section."
On the Air: For fans unable to make it to Timken Gymnasium, the College will be providing live video http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/wooster.portal#.
There will be live stats as well at http://livestats.prestosports.com/wooster/.
Additionally, every Wooster game can be heard live in the Wooster area on WQKT 104.5 FM or anywhere by following links on the commercial radio station's website at http://www.wqkt.com/. Mike Breckenridge serves as the "Voice of the Fighting Scots."
NCAA Tourney Notes: The Scots are making their 22nd appearance in the NCAA Div. III tourney. Only six others have been in as many – Franklin & Marshall College (23), Hope College (23), Illinois Wesleyan University (22), Salem State College (23), University of Scranton (24), and Wittenberg University (26).
Wooster, which also played in two other NCAA Tournaments prior to Div. III (1971, 1973), has been in the national field 18 of the last 19 seasons and 21 times since 1990. The Scots' all-time record in the Div. III tourney is 27-22 – 19-6 in games played at Timken Gymnasium, 7-6 at neutral sites, and 1-10 in true road games. Wooster has reached the Div. III sectional round ("Sweet 16") eight times over the last 14 years, highlighted by runs to the 2011 national championship game and to the semifinals two other times (2003, 2007).
All-Time Series: Penn State Behrend and Wooster have played on the hardwood just two times previously, and those were both back in the mid-1980s. The Lions won each meeting, 75-69 in Erie, Pa., on Jan. 25, 1986, and 68-63 in Wooster on Jan. 21, 1987.
Against the 2013 NCAA Field: Wooster played five games against teams that made it into the 2013 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship field, going 3-2. Three of them came against fellow North Coast Athletic Conference foe Ohio Wesleyan University, with the Scots sweeping the regular season, 88-82 and 74-67 in overtime, and then the Battling Bishops taking the conference tournament finals by a 76-66 score. In non-league action during December, Wooster lost on the road to eventual NCAA participant Transylvania University 68-62 and survived a buzzer-beater attempt to beat Marietta College 59-57.
Head Coach Steve Moore: The architect behind the winningest NCAA men's basketball team of the 2000s is Steve Moore. In addition to guiding Wooster to 335 victories this century, he carries a 25-year record of 593-133 (.817) with the Fighting Scots. Prior to coming to Wooster in 1987-88, Moore coached Muhlenberg College for six seasons and was successful there as well, giving him a career record of 680-198 (.774), which puts him third all-time in wins for Div. III coaches. Moore has seven Coach-of-the-Year honors from the North Coast Athletic Conference.
Regular Season Recap: Eight letterwinners returned for the Scots in 2012-13, and despite several playing different roles, they, along with nine freshmen, successfully reloaded after the graduation of three starters for a 20-4 regular season.
Wooster's non-league slate was highlighted by wins over Baldwin Wallace University (81-74) and Marietta College (59-57), two of the top-three teams in the Ohio Athletic Conference this season, while its two losses came against squads that have been nationally-ranked at times, Adrian College (57-56 on a buzzer beater) and Transylvania University (68-62).
Within the NCAC, the Scots only blemishes came during separate road trips to Indiana, with Wabash College (55-48) and DePauw University (68-52) upending Wooster at home for the second consecutive year. The Scots swept the regular season series against both second-place Ohio Wesleyan University (88-82 and 74-67 in OT) and archrival Wittenberg University (60-41 and 75-71).
As usual, Wooster is balanced offensively and plays stingy team defense. The Scots currently rate 21st in NCAA Div. III in defensive field-goal percentage (.387) and they have six players averaging 6.0 or more points, led by the guard combination of Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green) and Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy). Thorpe, a junior, recently overtook the team lead in scoring with 13.6 points a game, slightly ahead of Brown, a sophomore, at 13.2, and they're also the top distributors, averaging 4.7 assists between them.
In the post, seniors Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) and Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) allow Wooster to have a veteran presence on the floor at all times. Subbing in for each other, they average 9.3 and 8.3 points, respectively, with Mays also producing 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks and Claytor 5.7 rebounds.
The other starters are sophomores Kenny DeBoer (Westerville, Ohio / Westerville North) and Evan Pannell (Akron, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban). DeBoer, a 6-5, 220-pound forward, has come on strong of late, raising his season averages to 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds. Noteworthy, he made 16 consecutive field goals during one four-game stretch (Jan. 16-26). Pannell, a 6-2 athletic perimeter player, is one of the Scots' top defenders while chipping in 7.7 points a night.
One of Wooster's other strengths is depth, as a number of others have the potential to make key contributions any given game, such as sophomore guard Jalen Goodwin (Liberty Twp., Ohio / Lakota East), freshman wing DeVaughn Wingard (Shaker Hts., Ohio / Orange), freshman wing Alex LaLonde (Wooster, Ohio / Wooster), who joined the team mid-semester after transferring from the Air Force Academy, and freshman guard Geoff FuQuay (Arnold, Pa. / Valley).
Conference Tourney Recap: The Scots run of North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament titles ended at four, as they advanced to the finals again before settling for second-place.
On Feb. 19, Wooster outscored Oberlin College 19-3 to begin the second half, as the top-seeded Scots pulled away to a 74-47 win against the No. 8 seed during the teams' quarterfinal tilt at Timken Gymnasium. Wooster went into halftime with a 32-25 advantage, then broke it open during the early part of the second. Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green) started the half with five-straight points, and after an Oberlin 3-pointer, the Scots scored the next 14. Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) had seven of his nine points for the game during that sequence, which resulted in a 51-28 cushion. For the game, Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) and Brown went for 18 and 13 points, respectively, while Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) corralled a game-high eight rebounds.
On Feb. 22, a late 9-1 run by Wooster after the game had been tied at 61 was the difference, as the Scots defeated fifth-seeded Wittenberg University 78-66 in the semifinals at Timken Gym to earn a three-game season sweep of their rival. Evan Pannell (Akron, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban) scored a career-high 21 points, including a pair of free throws at the 4:57 mark that gave Wooster a lead, 63-61, it would not relinquish. The 9-1 run was capped by an Alex LaLonde (Wooster, Ohio / Wooster) 3-pointer, his second during the last six minutes, and made it 70-62. Wittenberg cut the margin to six a couple more times, but no closer. Pannell's 21 was five points more than his previous career best, while Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) had 17 points and four assists. Additionally, all of Jake Mays's (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) eight points came over the final 10 minutes.
On Feb. 23, Ohio Wesleyan University, the No. 2 seed, strung together an 18-2 run during the latter stages of the NCAC Tournament championship game, keying its 76-66 win over the Scots. Wooster went ahead 53-50 with 8:43 left when Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) sunk three free throws, however, the hosts would score just two points the next six-plus minutes. By the time that stretch was over, Ohio Wesleyan had built a 68-55 cushion with just 2:02 remaining. Thorpe went for a game-high 24 points, matching his career high, plus he dished five assists. Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) also played well in defeat, tallying a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
This and That: Wooster has extended its NCAA Div. III-leading streak of 20-win seasons to 17 ... Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) has played in 122 career games, tied for third-most in team history, and the Scots' record is 103-19 (.844). Fellow senior Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) hopes to join him with career win No. 100 as Wooster is 99-18 (.846) when Mays has taken the floor.