WOOSTER, Ohio – First-year Keonn Scott sparked the 17th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team with a desperation buzzer-beating 3-pointer that fell in off the backboard to pull the Fighting Scots within two at halftime, and the Black and Gold's shooting percentage heated up in the second half, enabling Wooster to ward off DePauw University 70-63 on Tuesday evening in a quarterfinal game of the 2018 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at Timken Gymnasium.
Noteworthy, the win marked Wooster's (21-5) 22nd straight in the quarterfinal round of the league tournament. Wooster advances to face Ohio Wesleyan University (18-8), winners of an 88-86 overtime thriller over sixth-seeded Wabash College (12-14). Wooster and Ohio Wesleyan will square Friday, Feb. 23 at Wittenberg University's Pam Evans Smith Arena in the 7:30 p.m. semifinal game. Host Wittenberg (24-2) takes on Denison University (15-11) in the other semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
|Senior Alex Baptiste goes up for one of his signature hook shots during Wooster's win over DePauw in the quarterfinal of the 2018 NCAC Tournament.|
Wooster (21-5) had numerous good looks throughout the first half, but the shots didn't go down as the Scots were held to 35.3 percent (12-for-34) over the game's first 20 minutes. The second half featured a different tune as Wooster shot 55.2 percent (16-for-29) over the final 20 minutes.
On the opposite end of the floor, the Scots ramped up the intensity as well, with the Tigers' (11-15) shooting percentages ranking as polar opposites of Wooster's. DePauw knocked down 54.2 percent (13-for-24) in the opening half, but just 37.9 percent (11-for-29) down the stretch.
At the end of the opening half, senior Ari Stern's hustle down the floor set up Scott with a chance to cut further into DePauw's deficit as the guard secured a rebound with about :05 before the buzzer, drove down to the 3-point arc, and shoveled the ball off to Scott. Scott's lone bucket of the tilt made it a 32-30 game at the half, as Wooster shaved five points off DePauw's lead in the final 1:56 of the stanza.
Stern's hustle on the offensive end brought the score even at 32 with 17:49 to go in the contest when the senior tipped in an offensive rebound.
Later, sophomore Danyon Hempy knocked down back-to-back field goals to give Wooster its first lead since the 13:16 mark of the first half at nearly the same juncture of the second stanza – 13:21.
Senior Spencer Williams' old-school three-point play at the 12:34 mark put Wooster back ahead, and the Scots led by as many as five after junior Eric Bulic crashed hard down the middle of the key after his 3-pointer was off the mark to secure the rebound and make the wide-open stick-back.
DePauw wouldn't go quietly as a trio of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions pulled the Tigers within one at 52-51 with 9:05 remaining, and that's where the score stood until Jack VandeMerkt slipped past the Scots' interior defenders to give DePauw a 53-52 lead.
Senior Alex Baptiste responded quickly with a bucket in the paint to give the Scots the lead for good, and a Hempy 3-pointer with just under 4:00 to go marked the capper of a 7-0 Wooster run.
Bulic knocked down a key 3-pointer to bump the lead out to nine at 66-57 with 1:12 to go, and he sealed the game with a block with :12.4 left. In between Bulic's two big plays, Wooster went 4-for-5 at the charity stripe.
Williams led the Scots with 16 points on the night, while junior Blake Blair factored heavily into the win off the bench with 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists.
Hempy finished in double figures as well with 11 points, and his seven rebounds were second to Baptiste's eight.
Notable, Wooster logged a season-low four turnovers on the night, and that's the fewest the Scots have turned it over since also logging four during a 104-97 win over Wittenberg on Jan. 17, 2015.
VandeMerkt closed out his phenomenal collegiate career with a double-double at 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Josh Hall scored a co-game-high 16 points.