Wooster to Host Battle of Last Two National Runner-Ups

DeVaughn Wingard
DeVaughn Wingard

The College of Wooster is one of eight schools across the country hosting the third round of the 2013 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship this Saturday, March 16, as the Fighting Scots will be the home team in their match-up with Cabrini College (24-5). Opening tip at 3,400-seat Timken Gymnasium is slated for 7 p.m.

The game features the last two national runner-ups in the NCAA Tournament, Wooster in 2011 and Cabrini in 2012. It also marks a rematch from the 2011 NCAA sectional semifinals, played in Timken Gym, which saw the Scots prevail 94-77 on their way to the second-place finish. Only three of Wooster's current players got on the floor in that game – senior centers Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) and Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) and junior guard Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) – all in reserve roles, while six members on Cabrini's roster were part of that match-up, including two starters.

After going 5-3 the month of February, Wooster, the North Coast Athletic Conference champions, blitzed its first two opponents in the NCAA tourney by an average margin of 22.0 points, while the Cavaliers, who won both the Colonial States Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships, are owners of a 13-game win streak in which they've scored 80-plus points each time.

Saturday's winner will advance to the quarterfinals in Salem, Va., where it will face either No. 2 ranked Amherst College (26-2) or Randolph-Macon College (21-9).

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 29-22 – 21-6 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") nine times over the last 15 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 the opening two rounds of action, Wooster has played seven games against teams in the 2013 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship field, going 5-2. 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: Cabrini and Wooster have played each other twice before, both Scot victories. In addition to their 2011 NCAA Tournament sectional semifinal match-up (mentioned above), Wooster cruised past the Cavaliers 128-71 in the opener of the 2006-07 season.

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 361 victories this century, he carries a 26-year record of 619-139 (.817) 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 706-204 (.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.

On March 9, Wooster roared out to a 27-8 lead midway through the first half and withstood a Dickinson College surge during the second before securing an 80-54 triumph in the squads' NCAA second-round tilt at Timken Gymnasium. The Scots were clicking on all cylinders early, as Xavier Brown (Bowling Green, Ohio / Bowling Green) scored six of their opening 16 points, then backcourt mate Doug Thorpe (Columbus, Ohio / Eastmoor Academy) added a 3-pointer for a 19-3 cushion less than five minutes into the action. They pushed the lead out to 19 through 10 minutes, and later, Thorpe connected on two 3-pointers the last 60 seconds, the second a 50-foot, buzzer-beater to cap a 47-23 half. In the second, Wooster remained comfortably ahead until Dickinson trimmed a 59-38 deficit to 59-46 in about 90 seconds. The Red Devils were still within striking distance at 65-51 with five minutes remaining and then the Scots closed strong in taking the eventual 26-point win. Thorpe finished with a game-high 19 points and three assists, while Brown put 18 in the scorebook. Kenny DeBoer (Westerville, Ohio / Westerville North) also reached double figures with 11 points, while Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) helped Wooster to a 41-26 rebounding advantage with a game-high six boards.

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 11th in NCAA Div. III in defensive field-goal percentage (.382) 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 13.6 points a game, slightly ahead of Brown, a sophomore, at 13.5, and they're also the top distributors, averaging 4.6 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 8.1 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 8.4 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 7.4 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).

This and That: Wooster has extended its NCAA Div. III-leading streak of 20-win seasons to 17, and with one more victory would reach 25 for the fourth year in a row and ninth time in 11 seasons ... Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) has played in 124 career games, the second-most in school history, and the Scots' record is 105-19 (.847). Fellow senior center Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) recently joined him with career win No. 100 as Wooster is 101-18 (.849) when the latter has taken the floor ... With his most recent block, Jake Mays (Tallmadge, Ohio / Tallmadge) moved into 10th for a season (43) at Wooster, and he's also now tied for eighth in career blocks (90) ... Josh Claytor (Oxford, Ohio / Talawanda) currently ranks ninth in career field-goal percentage (.561; 377-for-672).