WOOSTER, Ohio – Sophomore Danyon Hempy sank the game-winning 3-pointer with :03.7 remaining, and Denison University's desperation heave at the buzzer was off the mark, as The College of Wooster men's basketball team earned a hard fought 73-70 win on Saturday afternoon at Timken Gymnasium.
An offensive rebound with under :20 remaining by Wooster (17-4, 11-3 North Coast Athletic Conference) senior Alex Baptiste was equally as important in setting up the final chance for the Scots. Coming out of a timeout, Wooster looked to junior Reece Dupler, but Denison (11-10, 7-7 NCAC) double teamed the Scots' guard leaving Hempy open for the game-winner.
Wooster led for most of the game, but Denison stayed within striking distance before earning its first lead of the game at the 2:52 mark of the second half. Matt Doyle had a step on Wooster's defense on that play and finished the layup to make it 66-65. Baptiste then split a pair of free throws at Wooster's end of the floor to tie the game up at 66, and the score was again tied at 68 with 2:04 to go thanks to a jumper by Hempy.
A Denison bucket forced Wooster to play catch up again, and Baptiste came through with good patience in the lane before knocking down a jumper to knot the score at 70 with 1:30 remaining.
The fast-paced game got off to a quick start, and that led to Wooster upping its season-high for first-half points to 46. In fact, the Scots knocked down 61.3 percent (19-of-31) of their shots in the opening 20 minutes, including 6-of-7 to open the game. That led to a 12-4 Wooster lead at the 16:21 mark when Hempy drained a jumper set up in large part by an offensive rebound by junior Eric Bulic.
In fact, three different Scots scored four points each during the opening sequence, including junior Reece Dupler, who recorded a steal on the Big Red's opening possession, fed the ball to Baptiste, and finished the return feed from the senior on the fast-break.
Further into the game, Denison's Claude Chandonnet knocked down a 3-pointer to pull Denison within two at 16-14 with 12:50 remaining to go in the half, but Wooster senior Spencer Williams countered on the ensuing Wooster possession with a 3-pointer of his own.
Williams' 3-pointer sparked the Scots as Wooster connected on its next five shots from beyond the arc, starting with one from Hempy on the next trip up the court. Later, sophomore Trenton Tipton buried 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to bump Wooster's lead out to nine at 28-19, and junior Blake Blair contributed one of the makes as well, with his pushing the lead out to a co-game-high 11 points.
Denison pulled within two at 57-55, thanks to Doyle heave that had enough momentum for a friendly bounce on the rim as the shot clock wound down. That capped a 10-2 run for the Big Red, but the Scots weathered that thanks to two straight jumpers by Williams and a Hempy block at the defensive end.
Wooster led by six with 6:36 to go after Bulic's free throw before the Big Red mounted their comeback-bid.
Hempy led Wooster with 17 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including a 3-for-4 afternoon from beyond the arc. The sophomore filled the stat sheet with five assists and two blocks.
Baptiste followed with 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and he finished one rebound shy of the double-double, but played a crucial role in the game's outcome with five of Wooster's nine blocked shots.
Bulic, Hempy (2), and Williams rounded out the Scots with blocked shots on the afternoon, and Wooster's now blocked seven or more shots six times this year.
Notable, the Scots kept the turnover count in single digits with nine on the afternoon, and have now turned it over fewer than 10 times in four straight games.
Maxwell Siwik led Denison with a game-high 21 points and a team-high six rebounds.
With the win, Wooster remains in sole possession of second-place in the NCAC, and carries a one-game lead over third-place Ohio Wesleyan University (15-6, 10-4) into the final two weeks of the regular season. First-place Wittenberg University (21-0, 14-0 NCAC) is three games ahead of Wooster in the standings.
Up next, Wooster travels to Allegheny College (5-16, 2-12 NCAC) for a 7 p.m. tilt on Wednesday, Feb. 7.