Wooster Hosting NCAA Second Round Against Dickinson

Josh Kipfer
Josh Kipfer

For the second consecutive Saturday night, The College of Wooster will be home to the NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship, as Dickinson College (21-7) visits 3,400-seat Timken Gymnasium for a second-round affair on March 9. The Fighting Scots are attempting to reach the NCAA's third round (Round of 16) for the ninth time in 15 seasons, but that will be no easy task against a Dickinson team that has won nine of its last 11 games, which includes winning the Centennial Conference crown 64-40 over traditional power Franklin & Marshall College and then jumping all over Marietta College early (it was 19-6 less than five minutes in) and rolling to an 80-65 victory in the first round. Saturday's opening tip is scheduled for 7 p.m., and the winner will move on to face either Cabrini College (23-5), the 2012 national runner-up, or Ohio Wesleyan University (23-5).

Ticket Information: As determined by the NCAA, ticket prices for this Saturday's second round are $6 for adults and $4 for senior citizens, students, and children (under two are free). There will be no advanced ticket sales and the gates open at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. Also, artificial noisemakers are prohibited.

College of Wooster students, please note that you can be part of the excitement for free (just present your College ID to receive a ticket), courtesy of the president's office.

On the Air: For fans unable to make it to Timken Gymnasium, the College will be providing live video http://client.stretchinternet.com/client/wooster.portal#.

There will be live stats as well at http://livestats.prestosports.com/wooster/.

Additionally, every Wooster game can be heard live in the Wooster area on WQKT 104.5 FM or anywhere by following links on the commercial radio station's website at http://www.wqkt.com/. Mike Breckenridge serves as the "Voice of the Fighting Scots."

NCAA Tourney Notes: The Scots are making their 22nd appearance in the NCAA Div. III tourney. Only six others have been in as many – Franklin & Marshall College (23), Hope College (23), Illinois Wesleyan University (22), Salem State College (23), University of Scranton (24), and Wittenberg University (26). Wooster, which also played in two other NCAA Tournaments prior to Div. III (1971, 1973), has been in the national field 18 of the last 19 seasons and 21 times since 1990.

The Scots' all-time record in the Div. III tourney is 28-22 – 20-6 in games played at Timken Gymnasium, 7-6 at neutral sites, and 1-10 in true road games. Wooster has reached the Div. III sectional round ("Sweet 16") eight times over the last 14 years, highlighted by runs to the 2011 national championship game and to the semifinals two other times (2003, 2007).

Against the 2013 NCAA Field: Including last weekend's first-round action, Wooster has played six games against teams in the 2013 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship field, going 4-2. Prior to the NCAA's, three of them came against fellow North Coast Athletic Conference foe Ohio Wesleyan University, with the Scots sweeping the regular season, 88-82 and 74-67 in OT, and then the Battling Bishops taking the conference tourney finals by a 76-66 score. In non-league action during December, Wooster lost on the road to eventual NCAA participant Transylvania University 68-62 and survived a buzzer-beater attempt to beat Marietta College 59-57.

All-Time Series: Dickinson and Wooster have met on the hardwood just once previously, an 86-31 win for the Scots as part of their annual "Mose" Hole/Kiwanis Classic on Dec. 28, 1995. While that game certainly means nothing to today's players, it was one of the most decisive wins in Wooster's history as it limited the Red Devils to 21.8 percent from the field (12-for-55) while outrebounding them 57-29.

Head Coach Steve Moore: The architect behind the winningest NCAA men's basketball team of the 2000s is Steve Moore. In addition to guiding Wooster to 360 victories this century, he carries a 26-year record of 618-139 (.816) with the Fighting Scots. Prior to coming to Wooster in 1987-88, Moore coached Muhlenberg College for six seasons and was successful there as well, giving him a career record of 705-204 (.776), which puts him third all-time in wins for Div. III coaches. Moore has seven Coach-of-the-Year honors from the North Coast Athletic Conference.

How the Scots Got Here: Wooster received a Pool C bid, more commonly known as at-large, into the NCAA Div. III Championship field via its 22-5 overall record entering the tournament.

On March 2, the Scots' defense paved the way for an NCAA opening-round win against Penn State Behrend, as Wooster recorded a season-low .283 defensive field-goal percentage en route to the 62-44 decision inside Timken Gymnasium. The Scots got off to a slow start offensively, scoring one field goal and five total points through seven minutes, but their defense kept it close. Wooster's offense got going with 24 points the second 10 minutes of the first half to take a 37-25 lead at the break, then Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green) scored the first five points of the second and added a nice assist to Evan Pannell (Akron, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban) for an alley-oop dunk as the Scots quickly extended their advantage to 44-25. The Lions never got any closer than 15. Brown led all players with 17 points as well as nine rebounds, while Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) and Kenny DeBoer (Westerville, Ohio / Westerville North) each scored 10 points.

Conference Tourney Recap: The Scots run of North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament titles ended at four, as they advanced to the finals again before settling for second-place.

On Feb. 19, Wooster outscored Oberlin College 19-3 to begin the second half, as the top-seeded Scots pulled away to a 74-47 win against the No. 8 seed during the teams' quarterfinal tilt at Timken Gymnasium. For the game, Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) and Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green) went for 18 and 13 points, respectively, while Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) corralled a game-high eight rebounds.

On Feb. 22, a late 9-1 run by Wooster after the game had been tied at 61 was the difference, as the Scots defeated fifth-seeded Wittenberg University 78-66 in the semifinals at Timken Gym to earn a three-game season sweep of their rival. Evan Pannell (Akron, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban) scored a career-high 21 points, including a pair of free throws at the 4:57 mark that gave Wooster a lead, 63-61, it would not relinquish. The 9-1 run was capped by an Alex LaLonde (Wooster, Ohio / Wooster) 3-pointer, his second during the last six minutes, and made it 70-62. Wittenberg cut the margin to six a couple more times, but no closer. Pannell's 21 was five points more than his previous career best, while Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) had 17 points and four assists.

On Feb. 23, Ohio Wesleyan University, the No. 2 seed, strung together an 18-2 run during the latter stages of the NCAC Tournament championship game, keying its 76-66 win over the Scots. Wooster went ahead 53-50 with 8:43 left when Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) sunk three free throws, however, the hosts would score just two points the next six-plus minutes. By the time that stretch was over, Ohio Wesleyan had built a 68-55 cushion with just 2:02 remaining. Thorpe went for a game-high 24 points, matching his career high, plus he dished five assists. Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) also played well in defeat, tallying a double-double of 12 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.

Regular Season Recap: Eight letterwinners returned for the Scots in 2012-13, and despite several playing different roles, they, along with nine freshmen, successfully reloaded after the graduation of three starters for a 20-4 regular season.

Wooster's non-league slate was highlighted by wins over Baldwin Wallace University (81-74) and Marietta College (59-57), two of the top-three teams in the Ohio Athletic Conference this season, while its two losses came against squads that have been nationally-ranked at times, Adrian College (57-56 on a buzzer beater) and Transylvania University (68-62).

Within the NCAC, the Scots only blemishes came during separate road trips to Indiana, with Wabash College (55-48) and DePauw University (68-52) upending Wooster at home for the second consecutive year. The Scots swept the regular season series against both second-place Ohio Wesleyan University (88-82 and 74-67 in OT) and archrival Wittenberg University (60-41 and 75-71).

As usual, Wooster is balanced offensively and plays stingy team defense. The Scots currently rate 15th in NCAA Div. III in defensive field-goal percentage (.383) and they have six players averaging 7.0 or more points, led by the guard combination of Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green) and Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy). Thorpe, a junior, recently overtook the team lead in scoring with 13.4 points a game, slightly ahead of Brown, a sophomore, at 13.3, and they're also the top distributors, averaging 4.7 assists between them.

In the post, seniors Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) and Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) allow Wooster to have a veteran presence on the floor at all times. Subbing in for each other, they average 9.0 and 8.3 points, respectively, with Mays also producing 7.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks and Claytor 5.6 rebounds.

The other starters are sophomores Kenny DeBoer (Westerville, Ohio / Westerville North) and Evan Pannell (Akron, Ohio / Archbishop Hoban). DeBoer, a 6-5, 220-pound forward, has come on strong of late, raising his season averages to 8.3 points and 4.1 rebounds. Noteworthy, he made 16 consecutive field goals during one four-game stretch (Jan. 16-26). Pannell, a 6-2 athletic perimeter player, is one of the Scots' top defenders while chipping in 7.5 points a night.

One of Wooster's other strengths is depth, as a number of others have the potential to make key contributions any given game, such as sophomore guard Jalen Goodwin (Liberty Twp., Ohio / Lakota East), freshman wing DeVaughn Wingard (Shaker Hts., Ohio / Orange), freshman wing Alex LaLonde (Wooster, Ohio / Wooster), who joined the team mid-semester after transferring from the Air Force Academy, and freshman guard Geoff FuQuay (Arnold, Pa. / Valley).