WOOSTER, Ohio – Steve Moore was honored pre-game, the 18th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team carried the celebration over to the opening minutes of the game, and the Fighting Scots dug in to hold off 11th-ranked Wabash College down the stretch for a hard-fought 91-84 win on Saturday afternoon at Timken Gymnasium.
With the win, Wooster's (16-3, 11-1 North Coast Athletic Conference) now tied with Wabash (17-2, 11-1 NCAC) for first-place in the conference with six games remaining. The two teams have a three-game lead over third-place Wittenberg University (14-5, 8-4 NCAC).
Moore, who was honored prior to tipoff by the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame, to which he'll be inducted to on May 18, saw his Scots race out to a 14-0 lead over the first 5:38 of the game. Junior Danyon Hempy scored six points during the opening stretch, while freshman Khaylen Mahdi capped the opening spurt with a three-pointer.
Defensively, Wooster was all over Wabash, as the Little Giants had tough sledding en route to a 0-for-9 showing from the floor before Connor Rotterman put Wabash on the board with a three-pointer at the 14:06 mark. Wooster was right there on nearly every shot attempt with senior Eric Bulic and Hempy logging blocks during the opening spurt, and Bulic had a steal prior to Mahdi's long-range dart.
Wabash to its credit nearly overcame its slow start, and was within three as late as 32 seconds. Sophomore Keonn Scott bumped the lead out to five with 30.3 to go on a pair of free throws. Next, Hempy all but clinched the game. Defensively, the junior deflected the ball off the leg of NCAC leading scorer Jack Davidson. Then, the Scots' leading scorer was fouled and made it a three-possession game with 20.6 to go.
From there, Wabash's quick three-pointer by Alex Eberhard was off the mark, and senior Reece Dupler was off to the races with the game-sealing rebound with under 10 ticks to go.
Earlier in the game, Wooster was on the verge of pulling away again just past the first half's midpoint. Senior Trey Miller's coast-to-coast fast-break layup after a steal had the Scots up by 13 at 32-19. Scott upped the lead with a jumper on the possession following Hempy's second blocked shot of the game, and the sophomore upped the advantage to 16 at 37-21 with 7:12 to go before halftime on a three-pointer.
Led by 12 points by Davidson over the final six minutes and change in the first half, the Little Giants were within five at the break at 47-42.
In the second half, it was Bulic who staked the College to a double-digit lead with 5:27 remaining. The senior was dialed in from long range not long after earning three points the old-fashion way. Then, Hempy picked Rotterman's pocket and the assist on Dupler's lay-in bumped Wooster's lead out to 76-63 with 4:42 left in the game.
Wabash started to chip away late, and to Wooster's credit, the Little Giants didn't get within a single possession until 32 ticks were left on the scoreboard.
Hempy tied his career-high with 31 points in what marked the junior's fourth straight game over 20. The junior added six rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
Scott chipped in 18 points, six of which came at the charity stripe. Bulic and Dupler each scored 11 points, with Bulic finishing off the double-double with a team-high 14 rebounds.
Wooster shot 46.2 percent (30-for-65) for the game and was 73.3 percent (22-for-30) at the charity stripe. The Scots had nine steals and six blocked shots.
Davidson scored a game-high 34 points to pair with five rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Hallstrom added a double-double with 18 rebounds and 16 points.
Wabash shot 46.3 percent (31-for-67) for the game and was an impressive 81.8 percent (18-for-22) at the free throw line.
Next, Wooster hosts Kenyon College (1-17, 0-11 NCAC) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 30.