Senior Reece Dupler scored 10 points over the final 6:53 of the first half to help pull the 14th-ranked College of Wooster ahead of host DePauw University in an eventual 81-70 win on Saturday afternoon at Neal Fieldhouse in Greencastle, Ind.
After seven early lead changes and four ties, Wooster (21-4, 16-2 North Coast Athletic Conference) found itself down 27-18 before Dupler took over at the 6:53 mark, starting with a signature one-handed hook shot in the paint. Then, Dupler's ability to drive to the hoop pulled Wooster within five with 5:41 left in the period.
Keyed by Dupler, Wooster pulled even closer on its next trip down the court, as the Tigers (16-9, 10-8 NCAC) collapsed on the Scots' guard when he looked to drive. That sprung senior Eric Bulic open for an uncontested lay-in.
Bulic's efforts on the glass also proved crucial during Wooster's half-closing 16-6 stretch. The senior cashed in on a pair of second-chance buckets before Dupler's right-handed layup staked Wooster to a 34-33 lead with 1:45 left in the opening half. Dupler added a runner just before the buzzer to make it a 36-33 game.
Hempy, who poured in 21 of his game-high 29 points after halftime, sparked the Scots at several crucial junctures. First, the junior cut to the hoop for a slam dunk at the 14:25 mark right after DePauw pulled within two at 45-43. Next, Hempy rolled to the basket and was left all alone for an easy lay-in. On the possession immediately after, the junior was fouled on a three-point try and canned all three free throws to up the lead to eight at 56-48 with 9:41 to go.
Wooster turned in a strong closing stretch, starting with the play of sophomore Dontae Williams. With just north of two minutes left, the forward got Aaron Shank to bite on the double pump, and Williams' old-fashion three-point play upped Wooster's lead to 73-63. Later, Williams put the Scots up by double digits for good when he came right down the middle of the court on the press break, and was rewarded with a wide-open lay-in after catching Hempy's lead pass in stride.
Hempy's dunk with 46 ticks left put the exclamation point on the regular season. On that play, the junior snuck down the court after a layup by Caymn Lutz, and the Tigers couldn't catch up to Hempy on the breakaway play.
In addition to Hempy, three other Scots finished in double figures in the scoring column in Dupler (20), Bulic (13), and Williams (12). Bulic logged his third double-double of the season with a game-high 10 rebounds, while Hempy finished with eight boards and four assists.
Noteworthy, three Scots had at least four assists in the game, with Dupler's five marking the game high.
Wooster shot 55.6 percent (35-for-63) for the game, scored 58 of its 81 points in the paint, and secured 15 more rebounds than DePauw.
DePauw was led by Nick Felke's 17 points, while Lutz and Cole Jenkins accounted for 26 of the Tigers' 37 bench points.
DePauw shot 38.0 percent (21-for-54) for the game, as Wooster heavily contested nearly every field goal try. The Tigers were further handcuffed by 12 missed free throws, eight of which came in the second half. While the Tigers only had four turnovers on the afternoon, there were a host of close calls, thanks to the Scots having active hands and causing numerous deflections, which often had DePauw working with a short shot clock.
Worth noting, Wooster's 21-4 regular-season record is the Scots' best since the 2013-14 squad went 22-3.
Next, Wooster opens up play in the NCAC Tournament with a quarterfinal contest against eighth-seeded Allegheny College (10-14, 6-12 NCAC) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 19. The Scots are the top seed for the tournament for the first time since the 2013-14 season.