WOOSTER, Ohio – Senior Spencer Williams knocked down a pair of free throws with :18.7 remaining to bump the 23rd-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team's lead out to five points, and a game-tying 3-pointer by Ohio Wesleyan University's Seth Clark fell off the rim as the Fighting Scots held on for another exciting three-point win over the Battling Bishops, this time by a 75-72 final score on Saturday afternoon at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster (19-4, 13-3 North Coast Athletic Conference) secured at least the No. 2 seed in the upcoming NCAC Tournament, and the Scots enter the final week of the regular season still in championship contention thanks to Hiram College's (14-9, 10-6 NCAC) 94-71 win over previously unbeaten Wittenberg University (22-1, 15-1 NCAC). The Tigers would've clinched sole possession of the regular season crown with a win over the Terriers.
An 11-2 run just over six minutes into the game staked Wooster to a 19-11 lead with 11:44 to go in the opening stanza after a Williams jumper closed out the run, yet it was the Scots' defense that keyed the stretch. Williams and sophomore Danyon Hempy both came away with steals against Ohio Wesleyan's (15-8, 10-6 NCAC) Nate Axelrod and Will Orr, and both Scots made the ensuing free throws after the Bishops scrambled to foul to prevent easy fast-break buckets.
Later in the run, senior Alex Baptiste chipped in with a block.
In the final quarter of the opening half, Wooster bumped its lead out to 14 with a 9-0 stretch with a fast-break layup by junior Eric Bulic kicking off the action. On that play, junior Reece Dupler's assist was equally as impressive as Bulic's lay-in.
A trio of 3-pointers helped extend Wooster's lead out to 15 at 57-42 with 11:25 remaining in the conest. First, Dupler canned a long-range field goal in the first minute of the second half to bump the lead out to 12, and Hempy followed suit with a pull-up trifecta on the ensuing possession to tack on to the lead, which at that point ballooned to 13. Just over six minutes later, sophomore Trenton Tipton knocked down his lone bucket of the game to make it 57-42.
With 6:16 remaining, Hempy threw down a monster fast-break dunk after a steal, and that had Wooster up a dozen at 67-55. Earlier in the half, the sophomore added a highlight-worthy two-handed dunk in traffic.
After Hempy's second dunk, six straight points by OWU's Clark positioned the Bishops right back in the mix as Wooster's lead was trimmed to four at 67-63 with 4:00 left.
Wooster never trailed down the stretch, but Ohio Wesleyan did pull within three on a trio of occasions.
Hempy led a quartet of Scots in double figures scoring by matching his season-high at 22 points, thanks to an 8-for-17 afternoon from the floor and a perfect 4-for-4 showing at the charity stripe. Of note, the sophomore added four steals in the win.
Williams, who was 8-for-8 at the free throw line, finished with 17 points while Bulic and Dupler combined for 24.
Baptiste led the way with a game-high 11 rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end.
Clark led OWU with 18 points while Axelrod and Grant Gossard each scored 17.
Of note, the Wooster-Ohio Wesleyan series has tightened up of late as the last three contests – all Wooster wins – have been decided on by a combined 10 points.
Wooster's three-point win marked the 13th time this season the Scots have won a game by 10 or fewer points, and the fourth one-possession win.
Next, Wooster hosts Kenyon College (7-16, 4-12 NCAC) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14.