Bulic's Clutch Rebounds Lead to Six Second-Chance Points in Closing Minutes as No. 23 Wooster Holds Off Allegheny, 72-59

Blake Blair
Eric Bulic

Junior Eric Bulic snared a season-high 16 rebounds – 10 of which came on the offensive end – and made a pair of key putbacks late in the second half as The College of Wooster men's basketball team, ranked 23rd in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25 poll, closed out Allegheny College with an 8-0 run to claim a 72-59 win on Wednesday evening at the David V. Wise Center in Meadville, Pa.

Allegheny's (5-17, 2-13 North Coast Athletic Conference) Jordan Rawls made it a five-point game at 64-59 with 4:33 left in the contest, but that would mark the final points of the night for the Gators. On the other end of the floor, Bulic cleaned up a Wooster (18-4, 12-3 NCAC) miss with his 15th rebound of the contest, and his ensuing stick back bumped the Fighting Scots' lead out to seven.

With 4:41 remaining, Bulic secured a pair of offensive rebounds on the same possession, and followed the second one up with a layup to kick Wooster's lead out to seven prior to Allegheny's final bucket of the game. The junior's dominance on the offensive glass continued as his rebound with 1:40 to go kept possession with the Scots, and classmate Reece Dupler eventually cashed in on the second-chance opportunity to extend the lead to nine with 1:18 left on the clock.

From there, Wooster's defense dug in with senior Spencer Williams and Dupler tallying a steal and block respectively on the stat sheet in the final 1:07, while sophomore Danyon Hempy knocked down all four free throws in the final minute to keep the Scots perfect on the night at the charity stripe.

In the first half, Wooster's defense set the tone for the opening 20 minutes with back-to-back steals to start the game, and later in the stanza, Hempy recorded a steal, slammed home a one-handed dunk on the fast break, and finished the old-school three-point play, as Wooster led by as many as 15 in the first half.

In fact, the Scots raced out to an 11-0 lead three minutes into the game, thanks in large part to the Scots' team speed. Senior Alex Baptiste led the way down the floor, and pulled up after receiving a lengthy lead pass from Bulic to let the Gators fly by for the game's opening points, and a fast-break lay-in by Dupler capped the opening spurt.

Defensively, it was Dupler who knocked away Allegheny's opening entry pass to Rawls, and Bulic logged the steal on the Gators' second possession of the game. Later in the run, Baptiste got into the act defensively with the first of Wooster's five blocks in the game.

Near the midway point of the opening half, Hempy's and-one bumped the lead back out to 10 at 24-14. Two possession later, sophomore Trenton Tipton poked the ball away from Allegheny's Lamar Todd, and the Scots again struck in transition, this time with senior Ari Stern dumping the ball to junior Blake Blair in the corner. Blair responding by canning the second of his four 3-pointers in the game, and at that point Wooster doubled up Allegheny in the scoring column 28-14 with 10:16 left before halftime.

A Tipton 3-pointer made it 33-18 with 6:58 left in the first stanza, and that marked Wooster's largest lead of the night.

Billy Urso pulled Allegheny back into the contest with a pair of 3-pointers to start the second-half scoring, the latter of which made it a 40-34 tilt just under 1:30 into the period.

Wooster was on the verge of pulling away again near the 12:00 mark with Blair and Williams teaming up for a 7-0 run, but Urso canned his third 3-pointer of the half to keep the game within reach for the Gators. Allegheny's junior guard's fourth 3-pointer of the half kicked off a 10-2 stretch that pulled the Gators within five at 62-57 with 5:18 remaining.

Hempy led a balanced effort in the scoring column with 15 points, and the Scots had three other players in double figures, including Dupler and Williams who were right behind with 14 points each. Blair logged 12 points – all on 3-pointers – to pair with six rebounds, while Tipton scored nine points and secured six boards.

Notable, the game marked the first time Wooster didn't miss a free throw in a game since the Scots were 13-for-13 versus Defiance College on Nov. 19, 2016.

Rawls scored a game-high 20 points while Urso chipped in 15 – all on 3-pointers.

Next, Wooster hosts Ohio Wesleyan University (15-7, 10-5 NCAC) at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The Scots enter the game with a two-game lead over the Battling Bishops for second-place in the NCAC standings as Hiram College (13-9, 9-7) topped Ohio Wesleyan 72-66 on Wednesday.

Prior to the game, the Scots will honor their five seniors, and fans are encouraged to wear black and gold attire to the game.