The College of Wooster men's basketball team's poised experience on the defensive end of the floor led to a lengthy stretch of scoreless basketball to start the game, and then the Fighting Scots ramped up the efforts on that end of the floor with the game on the line during an 80-72 win over Wabash College on Saturday afternoon at Chadwick Court in Crawfordsville, Ind.
Wooster (13-4, 7-3 North Coast Athletic Conference) didn't allow a point until the 14:38 mark of the first half, as Wabash (8-9, 4-6 NCAC) opened the game 0-for-10 from the floor, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc before settling in.
The strong defensive effort was reminiscent of the ending of Wednesday's game as Wooster didn't allow any points from the 5:20 mark in the second half until a Kenyon College buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Fast forwarding to the end of the game, Wooster faced a one-point deficit at 72-71 with 2:35 remaining after a 3-pointer by Wabash's leading scorer Jack Davidson, but that would be the final time the Little Giants found the scoring column.
Sophomore Danyon Hempy spearheaded the closing defensive surge by stripping Connor Rotterman, who was the leading scorer for Wabash on the afternoon, with 1:58 to go, and that was the first of four Wooster steals in the final two minutes after the Scots only had one all game prior to that point.
Senior Alex Baptiste jumped in on the act defensively with a steal with 1:32 left, and three ticks later, classmate Spencer Williams was at the free throw line, where he knocked down both shots to put Wooster up for good. From there, junior Reece Dupler converted on an old-school three-point play, and his free throw was part of a 7-for-7 collective effort by the Scots at the charity stripe down the stretch.
Offensively, Wooster raced out to a 14-0 lead at the game's onset, with Dupler springing free underneath on the Scots' second possession. Williams was in sync with the Scots' junior with the assist, and then hit from beyond the arc about 1:30 later. Three-pointers by Dupler and Hempy followed soon after as part of the opening stretch.
Sophomore Trenton Tipton's instrumental play off the bench led the way for the Scots in the opening half, as the forward bested his career-highs in points and rebounds by intermission. Tipton accounted for the Scots' next seven points after the initial 14-0 burst, and his mid-range jumper made it 21-5 with 12:08 to go before halftime. For the half, Tipton scored 11 points – six of which came on put-backs – and secured five offensive rebounds.
Similar to Tipton's play, Wabash's bench took over as well in the first half with Rotterman accounting for eight of the Little Giants' 13 points during a 13-0 spurt that pulled Wabash right back into the thick of the game with under 8:00 to go in the opening half. For the half, Rotterman scored nearly half of Wabash's 34 points with 16, but Wooster held a five-point lead.
Davidson connected on a 3-pointer – the first points of the game by the Little Giants' leading scorer on the season – with 16:20 remaining that gave Wabash its first lead of the contest at 16:20, but Wooster senior Ari Stern answered right back with a trifecta of his own that edged Wooster back on top at 43-42.
Those two 3-pointers marked the first of six quick lead trades and it wasn't until 3-pointers by Tipton and Stern, the latter of which came with 11:04 remaining that Wooster pulled back out to three possessions at 57-50.
In fact, the Scots' lead ballooned back out to 11 thanks to a Hempy jumper with 9:50 to go, but a 12-2 run had the Little Giants right back in the hunt as Wabash lurked within one at 63-62 at the 5:57 mark.
Two quick Wooster 3-pointers, with a block by junior Blake Blair sandwiched in between, bumped the lead back out to seven at 69-62 before Wabash pulled ahead with 2:35 left.
Dupler turned in an excellent all-around game to lead the way for Wooster with 20 points on 8-for-12 shooting, including a 3-for-5 afternoon from beyond the arc. The junior filled the stat sheet with eight rebounds and five assists.
Tipton and Williams finished with 15 points each, and all seven of Tipton's rebounds came on the offensive end for the floor.
Other stats of note include a 10-for-11 mark for Williams at the free throw line and five rebounds by Baptiste.
Rotterman matched Dupler in the scoring column with 20 points, while Davidson and Conner Brens scored 13 each.
Up next, Wooster wraps up its three-game road trip at Hiram College (11-6, 7-3 NCAC) at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 24.