The College of Wooster men's basketball team, up to 16th in this week's D3hoops.com Top 25 Poll, continued to follow the same recipe for success during its 90-70 win over Kenyon College at Tomsich Arena, as the Fighting Scots' bench provided the initial spark, the Black and Gold took charge late in the first half, and a strong start defensively at the onset of the second half proved to be the differences on Wednesday evening.
Wooster, now 5-0 (1-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) for the first time in five years, logged another impressive stretch just before halftime, with sophomore Dontae Williams emerging as the heavy-lifter on the stat sheet. The Scots' post checked in with 5:07 remaining and went right to work with his layup in transition marking the first two points of an eventual 12-0 run that had the Scots leading by 16 at 43-27 with 1:23 left. Senior Trey Miller had the helper on Williams' spark-starter, and the Scots' sophomore returned the favor two possessions later when Miller knocked down his second triple of opening half after a kick-out pass.
On the other end of the floor, Williams was just as active with a pair of steals, the first of which led to a pair of free throws. Prior to the run ending, Williams added a block, while earlier in the half, senior Eric Bulic swatted aside two shots as the Scots imposed their way on the interior with a major size advantage.
"Dontae did a good job there," said head coach Steve Moore. "He sparked us at the end of the first half. That was a key point of the game as we went into halftime with a 43-30 lead."
Kenyon's (0-6, 0-1 NCAC) Kamal Aubakirov ended the Lords' 4:15 scoring drought with a jumper, and the freshman did more than his share to keep the Lords in the hunt with 11 of the team's 30 first half points, nine of which came on a trio of three-pointers. In fact, Aubakirov's triples tied the game at 18 with 10:35 left in the stanza, and the Lords were within two at 27-25.
Prior to Aubakirov heating up from the outside, junior Trenton Tipton provided instant offense when inserted into the game off the bench. Tipton spotted up for a three-pointer that bumped Wooster back into the lead at 11-10 and added a stick-back within his first minute in the game. Sophomore Keonn Scott heavily impacted the game at the same juncture with an assist and steal, the latter of which led to a quick bucket by junior Danyon Hempy in transition.
Wooster continued to capitalize on the length differential on the defensive end in the second half, as Bulic had a steal and doubled his block total to four. In fact, Wooster had three steals in a 43-tick span in the second half with Williams, Miller, and senior Reece Dupler getting in the passing lanes. Offensively, the Scots cashed in on the first two steals with Miller making a layup through contact and Williams converting on a stick-back that made it 53-39 with 15:56 left in the contest.
Speaking of defense, thanks in large part to Hempy, the Scots kept the Lords' leading scorer – Matt Shifrin – without a field goal until the 15:34 mark of the second half.
"Danyon really looks forward to the challenge of guarding the top scorers each game," added Moore. "He really worked hard on Shifrin."
The Scots' bench carried over the momentum from the first half, this time with Scott leading the charge. The sophomore weaved his way through traffic and was left wide-open under the basket for a lay-in with 13:41 on the clock, and the guard scored six of Wooster's next eight points to extend the lead to 15 at 70-55 with 8:26 remaining.
Williams led five Scots in double figures with a co-game-high 17 points, while also filling the stat sheet with seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists, all of which went to Miller, who delivered a breakout performance offensively with a career-best 14 points. Hempy (14), Dupler (12), and Scott (10) rounded out the Wooster players in double figures, while Scott's eight rebounds and four assists marked the team highs for the game.
"It was good to see Trey and Keonn get those numbers like that and make a fine contribution," summed up Moore.
Wooster shot above 50 percent (32-for-62) for the third time in five games this season, while the Scots scored 48 of their 90 points in the paint, had 30 bench points, and 17 points off turnovers.
Aubakirov finished 5-for-8 from beyond the arc and led the Lords with 17 points. Carter Powell's 14 rebounds led all players.
Kenyon shot 37.1 percent (26-for-70) from the floor, and 42 percent of the Lords' field-goal makes were three-points.
Next, Wooster's four-game road trip concludes with a 3 p.m. tilt at Hiram College (2-2, 0-0 NCAC) on Saturday, Dec. 1.