The College of Wooster men's basketball team, which checked in at No. 25 in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll, couldn't overcome a hot start by Denison University, as the Big Red took the first meeting of the season between the North Coast Athletic Conference rivals 75-61 on Wednesday evening at Livingston Gymnasium in Granville, Ohio.
Denison (4-1, 1-0 NCAC) surged out to a 14-3 lead 4:06 into the game, thanks in large part to a trio of 3-pointers from Claude Chandonnet. In fact, it was almost déjà vu to the first meeting between the two teams last year as the Big Red opened with 13 unanswered points and knocked down three field goals from beyond the arc during the opening run of Denison's eventual 65-59 win on November 30, 2016.
Junior Simon Texidor pulled Wooster (3-2, 1-1 NCAC) within seven at 14-7 courtesy of a pair of pull-up buckets, the second of which came with 12:57 remaining in the half. Denison answered with a trio of free throws, including two by Conor Fenton to bump the lead back out to 10. Then, senior Alex Baptiste, aided by an assist from junior Reece Dupler, made a nice jumper in traffic, and later, junior Trey Miller pumped in a field goal with 11:15 left in the opening half to cut it to nine at 20-11.
However, a Fenton dunk bumped Denison's lead back out to 11 at 22-11 with 9:25 left in the opening half, and the Big Red pushed the advantage out to 36-23 at the half.
Denison nearly put the game out of reach with just under 16:00 remaining when the tail end of a pair of free throws by Johnny Vernasco extended the Big Red's lead out to a co-game-high 19 points at 51-32, but Wooster put together a 11-3 stretch later in the second half to pull back within nine with 7:04 remaining.
Junior Eric Bulic book-ended the Scots' best stretch of the game in the scoring column, opening with a pair of free throws, and capping it with a fine jumper in the paint, which made it a 58-49 contest. During the run, the Scots also had contributions from Texidor on a 3-pointer and a pair of buckets by Dupler.
Fenton continued to factor in during key moments of the game as his free throws with 6:36 remaining kick-started a 7-0 Denison run, and the Big Red led by double digits for the remainder of the night.
Dupler led the Scots with 14 points, 10 of which came in the second half. The versatile junior added eight rebounds, one shy of his career high.
Hempy (11) and Texidor (10) finished in double figures scoring, while Bulic corralled a season-best 13 rebounds.
Chandonnet and Matt Doyle scored a co-game-high 18 points. Chandonnet did all of his work from behind the arc with six 3-pointers, while Doyle went 11-for-13 at the charity stripe.
For the game, Denison shot 42.3 percent (22-for-52), while Wooster was held to 37.3 percent (22-for-59) from the floor.
Wooster will look to bounce back during a 2 p.m. home tilt with Wabash College (1-2, 0-0 NCAC) on Saturday, Dec. 2.