Big Red men end drought against OWU
GRANVILLE- As Andy Winters' 3-pointer from just inside half court fell short of the rim as time expired, a collective sigh of relief was exhaled throughout Livingston Gymnasium. Denison had just defeated Ohio Wesleyan 69-66 and in the process they overcame so much more.
Denison checked into Wednesday's game with a 5-8 record but the story only starts there. All eight of the Big Red's losses had been by single digits. They had been in every game and were leading most late in the second half. Not unlike a playoff caliber baseball team that lacks a closer, the proverbial bottom of the ninth has been a problem for Denison in 2011-12.
Tonight's win was encouraging in many ways but it's important to start in the bottom of the ninth. With Denison leading by one and under one minute to play, it appeared as if the Big Red forced a turnover off a deflected pass inside the paint. As the crowd began to cheer the play, the ball bounced off a Denison defender and into the waiting hands of OWU's Marshall Morris who scooped the ball into the basket, giving his squad a 64-63 lead.
On the ensuing possession it was clear the Big Red had learned from their sins of previous games. After quickly moving the ball around the perimeter, Jon Akpaunam lifted a 3-pointer from the elbow, right in front of his own bench, and drilled it giving his team a two-point lead with 21 seconds to play.
OWU opted not to call a time out and on a drive to the paint, Andy Winters was fouled by Dimonde Hale with 12 seconds to play. Winters would miss the front end of the free throw. Alex Longi came down with the rebound and was immediately fouled.
The free throw line had also been unkind to the Big Red this season, but tonight was a big top revival and all demons were being exorcized. Longi would sink the pair, putting his team up four with 11 seconds remaining.
Winters answered with a quick layup at the other end and a foul off the inbounds play sent Marr Mansfield to the free throw line. Mansfield rattled in the first free throw but missed the second, Morris gathered the rebound with four second left and got the ball to Winters who weaved down the court and let fly a desperation 3-pointer that looked good when it left his hands, but fell just short of the rim.
As the final horn sounded eight-straight losses to the Battling Bishops spanning the last seven years were wiped away and Denison improved to 3-2 in conference play.
Akpapunam finished with 14 points and was 4-of-9 from beyond the arc in just 22 minutes of action. Hale totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes and was 7 for 16 from the field. Larry Farmer chipped in nine points, five assists, six rebounds, three steals and two blocks in his 31 minutes of play. Jim Leffew was also productive in his limited minutes, finishing with nine points while connecting on a critical 3-pointer with 1:18 remaining that gave Denison the lead back at 63-62.
Ohio Wesleyan's Tim Brady led all scorers with 22 points off an 8-for-15 performance. Nick Felhaber followed with 15 points and Winters finished with 12 points and six assists.
Denison shot 44 percent from the field and was 15-of-20 from the free throw line (.750). They also held a 32-30 edge on the boards while committing 10 turnovers to OWU's 12.
DU improves to 6-8 overall while OWU falls to 11-3 and 3-2 in the conference. After winning 11-straight games the Battling Bishops have lost two-straight (Wittenberg and Denison).
Denison's next game will be in Springfield, Ohio on Saturday. Tip-off against Wittenberg will be at 3 p.m.