Similar Late-Game Recipe for Success Leads to Thrilling 78-70 Wooster Win at Hiram in Overtime

Eric Bulic
Reece Dupler

Junior Reece Dupler beat his man and put The College of Wooster men's basketball team up for good with :48 remaining in overtime, senior Alex Baptiste and junior Eric Bulic took charge defensively in the final minute, and the Fighting Scots' guards combined to go 6-for-6 at the charity stripe down the stretch as Wooster picked up a key 78-70 North Coast Athletic Conference road win over Hiram College at Price Gymnasium in Hiram, Ohio on Wednesday evening.

Wooster (14-4, 8-3 NCAC) and Hiram (10-7, 6-4 NCAC), which entered play as part of the three-way tie for second-place in the league standings, both had chances to win in regulation. The Scots were unable to get off a good look, giving the ball back to the Terriers with :01.3 remaining, and after a lengthy inbounds pass, Hiram called a quick timeout with :00.9 on the clock and possession just shy of half court.

The ensuing inbound pass set up a buzzer-beating 3-point attempt by Terrence Warren, but the guard's attempt bounced off the rim.

In overtime, the two teams traded points for the first four minutes of the extra stanza with Wooster striking first each time. Then, Dupler had a quick step on his man for the go-ahead bucket that made it 72-70.

Next, the focus of the game shifted to the defensive end of the floor where Baptiste logged his third block of the night and dumped the rebound off to sophomore Danyon Hempy, who was quickly fouled by Hiram.

After Hempy's pair of free throws bumped the lead out to 74-70 with :33 remaining, Bulic lurked on the 3-point arc, and his patience was rewarded in the form of a steal on the ensuing Terrier inbound pass. That led to two more free throws, this time by senior Spencer Williams, and those put the game out of reach.

Dupler, who played well despite being limited by foul trouble all night, knotted the game at 62 with 2:35 to go in regulation with a tough jumper after one of his signature hesitation moves. The junior's hustle was contagious as Hempy chased down a rebound on the defensive end of the floor, and that led to a 3-on-1 fast-break opportunity. A Hiram foul put Bulic at the line and the junior knocked down both free throws to make it a 64-62 game with 1:51 remaining.

With just under a minute to go, Warren tied the game up at 64 thanks to a 2-for-2 showing at the free throw line.

Earlier in the game, Wooster found itself down 10 at 36-26 with 3:46 to go in the opening half, but the Scots mounted a spirited 10-4 run to pull within 40-36 at the break. Bulic turned in the biggest offensive highlight during the run with an offensive rebound and stick-back, while Williams' block at the buzzer stood out among the defensive efforts.

Neither team shot the ball particularly well in the opening 20 as Wooster checked in at 14-for-36 while Hiram was at 13-for-35, but the Scots picked up the percentage with a 5-for-9 showing from the floor to start the second half.

A Williams fast-break conversion came during the strong opening burst, and that accounted for the Scots' first lead of the night at 45-44. Baptiste jump-started the break with a steal and quickly dumped the ball ahead to Hempy, who fed Williams in stride for the lay-in.

Speaking of Baptiste, the senior kicked off the Scots best stretch of the game offensively with an old-fashioned three-point play a possession prior when he caught Hiram's Jalen Kirksey out of position on the field goal try, and by the end of the 12-0 run, the Scots opened up a 52-44 lead with 10:42 left in regulation.

In fact, Baptiste's stellar play during the stretch resulted in two blocks, including one out of the perimeter on a fine hustle play.

Warren capped a late charge by Hiram with seven straight Terrier points, the final two of which came on a pair of free throws at the 2:50 mark of the second half that put Hiram back on top at 62-60.

Williams led the way in the scoring column with a game-high 19 points, thanks in large part to a 9-for-12 night at the charity stripe. Bulic turned in a fine all-around effort with his 10 points and 10 rebounds marking the junior's third double-double of the season.

Worth noting, the Scots logged a season-low seven turnovers. Coincidentally, extra time was needed to determine the outcome the last time Wooster had seven or fewer turnovers as that's how many the Scots had during a thrilling 111-104 double overtime win at DePauw University on Jan. 28, 2017.

Marcel Rice paced Hiram with 13 points, seven rebounds, and five of the Terriers' 11 blocked shows.

Wooster held Hiram to 34.3 percent (24-for-70) from the floor in the game, including 9-for-27 in the second half.

Next, Wooster turns its attention to DePauw (7-11, 3-8 NCAC) with Saturday's tip scheduled for 2 p.m. at Timken Gymnasium.