WOOSTER, Ohio – The College of Wooster men's basketball team went on a 14-5 run late in the first half, but in the end, the Fighting Scots couldn't overcome a lights out second half by 10th-ranked Wittenberg University as the Tigers took the 115th all-time meeting in one of small college basketball's top rivalries 86-75 on Saturday evening at Timken Gymnasium.
|Senior Spencer Williams scored 16 points and dished out five assists.|
Both teams shot at least 50 percent in the first half, yet it was Wooster (11-4, 5-3 North Coast Athletic Conference) which strung a series of plays together first as the Scots opened up a 12-5 lead with 16:25 remaining. Junior Eric Bulic's defensive efforts kicked off the stretch, as the junior poked the ball away from Landon Martin, and zoomed in for the fast-break bucket three ticks later. Then, classmate Reece Dupler worked hard inside for one of his signature layups, and senior Spencer Williams knocked down a pair of free throws to cap the 8-0 run.
Wooster stayed ahead of unbeaten Wittenberg (15-0, 8-0 NCAC) until Chad Roy went 2-for-2 at the charity stripe just before the midway point of the first half, and the two rivals were level again at 22 with 7:33 remaining before the Scots charged ahead.
Sophomore Danyon Hempy canned a 3-pointer to open the 14-5 run. In fact, Wooster was 0-for-5 from beyond the arc prior to Hempy's 3-pointer, and Dupler and sophomore Trenton Tipton knocked down trifectas of their own as the Scots went 4-for-5 during the stretch. Hempy book-ended the run with a second 3-pointer that made it a 36-27 game with 3:28 remaining in the opening stanza.
Wooster's lead nearly diminished at halftime with Roy leading a late 9-2 Wittenberg charge that was capped with Jordan Pumroy's put back that cut the Scots' halftime lead to two at 38-36.
Hempy knocked down his third 3-pointer of the game with 18:17 remaining to extend Wooster's lead to six at 45-39, but Pumroy and Roy led Wittenberg on an ensuing 12-1 run with Jacob Bertemes' lay-in with 15:13 remaining putting the Tigers up for good.
Wooster pulled within one four times down the stretch, starting with junior Simon Texidor, who cleaned up his missed jumper with a one-handed put back while elevated, and on the next possession, Williams turned in an old-fashioned three-point play with 9:11 that made it 58-57.
Next, Hempy knocked down his fourth 3-pointer of the game to make it 61-60 with 7:37 left, and just over 1:30 later, senior Alex Baptiste's layup made it 63-62.
However, Wittenberg answered back each time Wooster pulled within one, and thanks in large part to a 57.7 second-half field goal percentage and a 17-for-21 showing at the line over the final 20 minutes, eventually opened up an 11-point lead at 75-64 with 2:47 remaining. Pumroy capped the decisive eight-point swing with his lay-in after his own missed free throw bumped the lead out to double digits.
Wooster never pulled within two possessions down the stretch.
Hempy scored a team-high 21 points on 8-for-19 shooting, including a 4-for-9 showing from beyond the arc. The sophomore was backed up in the scoring column by Williams' 16 and Dupler's 15, and the guard duo combined for 10 of the Scots' 12 assists.
Baptiste led the way in the rebounding department with nine, and he logged two of Wooster's five blocked shots.
Pumroy led the way for Wittenberg with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Bertemes scored a game-high 22 points.
Wooster now leads the all-time series between the rivals 59-56. Wittenberg snapped Wooster's seven-game home series winning streak as the Tigers picked up their first win at Timken Gymnasium since winning 56-55 on a Zack Leahy buzzer-beater on Dec. 7, 2011.
Next, Wooster embarks on a three-game road trip, starting with an 8 p.m. tilt at Kenyon College (5-10, 2-6 NCAC) on Wednesday, Jan. 17. The contest will mark the midpoint of league play.