Senior Spencer Williams sank a pair of free throws with 6:12 remaining to kick off a decisive 10-2 run as The College of Wooster men's basketball team won a thriller over Saint Joseph's College of Maine 65-57 on Sunday afternoon in the opener of the Mauro Panaggio Tournament at DME Sports Complex in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Williams' well-rounded contributions factored heavily into the decisive run as his cut to the bask for a wide-open lay-in with 3:43 to go opened up a four-point Wooster (6-3) lead at 57-53, marking the largest advantage since the Fighting Scots led 44-40 with 14:09 left in the game.
On the next defensive possession, Williams poked the ball away from St. Joseph's (4-4) Ian Mileikis, and that led to a fast-break lay-in by sophomore Danyon Hempy that bumped Wooster's lead up to six with 2:15 remaining. In fact, Hempy accounted for six of the Scots' 10 fast-break points in the contest with the previous two layups in transition coming about two minutes into each half of the contest.
The thrilling game, which featured 15 ties and nine lead changes, saw Wooster trail initially as the Scots didn't lead until Williams knocked down a jumper from the elbow that made it 10-8 with 14:43 on the clock in the first half. The Monks answered right back with a jumper by Mileikis, but Hempy kept Wooster in the hunt with four of the Scots' next nine points, including a spectacular two-handed slam dunk that put Wooster on top 19-17 with 9:44 remaining in the first half.
The two teams traded points for the next 4:29 until freshman Josh Lotko split a pair of free throws with 5:15 to go. Lotko's free throw led to a 4-0 run by Wooster, and Williams' free throw at the end of the spurt gave the Scots the first two-possession lead for either team on the afternoon at 28-24 with just under four minutes left in the opening stanza.
Identical to Wooster's previous two wins, a single point separated the teams at halftime, and this time the Scots pulled within one at the break thanks to a pair of Williams free throws with :02 remaining.
In the second half, junior Eric Bulic hit a 3-pointer to give Wooster its first post-halftime lead at 37-36 at the 16:23 mark, and he later sprung free for a wide-open lay-in after the Monks collapsed on Williams' penetration with the latter bucket swinging the score back in favor of the Scots at 41-40. In fact, with the attention on Williams, the Scots' guard turned into a distributor again two possessions later when junior Simon Texidor knocked down a 3-pointer one possession removed from a steal on the defensive end of the floor.
Jack Casale flipped the score back in favor of the Monks with a 3-pointer at the 11:26 mark and the score was either tied or in favor of St. Joseph's until Williams sparked the late-game rally.
Speaking of Williams, the reigning NCAC Player-of-the-Week led the way with a game-high 22 points – his third straight 20-point game. Williams, who shot 7-for-14 from the floor and 8-for-12 at the charity stripe, dished out six assists, also a co-season-high as were his points.
Hempy chipped in 10 points while Bulic led the way in rebounding with a co-game-high seven boards. Other stats to note include the Scots' five blocks, two of which were recorded by senior Alex Baptiste, and a plus-five team total in the rebounding column.
Defensively, led by Hempy and junior Blake Blair, the Scots held Mileikis to seven points, 10 under his season average entering play on the day.
Darian Berry led St. Joseph's with 18 points and seven rebounds.
In the second game of the day, The College at Brockport, State University of New York (7-2) topped Whittier College (2-5) 108-92. Hamed Shamseldin led the Golden Eagles with a triple-double with 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists, while Justin Summers scored a game-high 25 points.
Wooster and Brockport are set to square off at 2 p.m. on Monday in the tournament's championship game.