Junior Blake Blair heated up in the second half with eight of his career-high 19 points coming during The College of Wooster's game-closing 21-5 run as the Fighting Scots pulled away late for an 83-63 win over DePauw University on Saturday afternoon at Neal Fieldhouse in Greencastle, Ind.
Wooster, (5-3, 3-2 North Coast Athletic Conference) which picked up its first road win of the season, saw its lead trimmed to four when Josh Hall nailed a jumper to put the finishing touches on a 10-0 spurt for DePauw (2-5, 0-3 NCAC). The Tigers' run came at a perfect time as the Scots were on the verge of putting the game out of reach after a Blair 3-pointer made it a 14-point game at 62-48 with 8:29 remaining.
Blair, and the Scots, weathered the storm and went to work with 6:03 to go as a pair of free throws by the junior forward kick-started the convincing closing stretch.
In fact, Wooster completely took over with a 10-1 rebounding advantage over the final 6:03 standing out. The long Tiger rebound during the stretch came with just over 30 seconds remaining, and by then the Scots led 83-61.
The Scots' rebounding persistence started right after Blair's free throws as junior Reece Dupler chased down a lengthy offensive board on Wooster's next possession, and the ensuing scramble led to senior Spencer Williams draining a wide-open 3-pointer. Later, Williams was the beneficiary in the scoring column again on another impressive rebounding effort. On this one, sophomore Danyon Hempy secured the Scots' second straight rebound of the possession with 4:01 to go, and Williams cashed Hempy's effort in for points with a 3-pointer that bumped Wooster's lead out to 11 at 72-61.
Later in the run, Blair beat DePauw down the floor for a fast-break lay-in. Then, Williams' penetration on the next possession had the Tigers out of position leading to Blair spotting up in the corner for an open 3-pointer, which made it a 20-point game with 1:52 remaining.
The game's momentum started to shift with 17:00 left as that's when senior Alex Baptiste blocked a shot by DePauw standout Jack VandeMerkt, secured the defensive rebound, and passed the ball ahead to Hempy, who capped the fast break at the other end, for what at the time was a 44-41 lead. Prior to the block, a Baptiste jumper with 17:21 to go put Wooster ahead, and the Scots didn't relinquish the lead from there.
In the first half, the two teams went back and forth with the lead changing hands 10 times in addition to eight ties before Wooster settled for a 37-36 lead at the break. The Scots had some momentum late thanks to a 3-pointer by Hempy and a pair of free throws by freshman Josh Lotko that gave Wooster a six-point lead at 31-25 with 3:53 remaining prior to the Tigers rallying back to tie the score less than two minutes later.
Hempy jumped out to a fast start earlier in the contest with a pair of buckets in the first 3:19 before a jumper by freshman Keonn Scott tied the game at eight. That's when Williams took over as the Scots' senior went on to score 14 of Wooster's 31 points over the final 15:01 of the half, and that stretch all started with a steal and fast-break layup.
At the other end, VandeMerkt kept up with Williams as the DePauw standout scored 15 points in the first half on 6-for-7 shooting. Wooster buckled down on VandeMerkt in the second stanza, holding him to 1-for-4 shooting from the field and he had five turnovers over the final 20 minutes.
For the game, Williams led the way with a game-high 22 points, while four Scots finished in double figures thanks to 14 points each from Dupler and Hempy. Coincidentally, Dupler and Hempy each had six rebounds in the game, and the guards combined for six of the Scots' 11 assists.
Junior Eric Bulic logged a game-high nine rebounds, and the Scots went plus-11 on the glass with 36 to the Tigers' 25.
VandeMerkt finished with 17 points and Riley Doody added 11.
Noteworthy, spearheaded by Hempy's defensive efforts, Wooter held DePauw's leading scorer David Vogel to eight points, half of his season average coming into the game.
Wooster is idle until a noon contest against Saint Joseph's College of Maine (3-3) on Sunday, Dec. 17 at Daytona, Fla.