WOOSTER, Ohio – The 12th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team ramped up the defensive intensity, and in doing so, held DePauw University to 29 percent shooting during a 73-52 win on Friday afternoon in first semifinal of the 2019 North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster (23-4), which will play in the championship game of the conference tournament for the 26th time in the 35-year history of the NCAC, will take on archrival Wittenberg University (22-5) at 4 p.m. on Saturday. Twenty-second ranked Wittenberg beat No. 25 Wabash College (21-6) 89-75 in Friday's second semifinal game.
Wooster, which saw Allegheny College connect on a remarkable 69 percent from the floor during Tuesday's 91-89 win in the quarterfinals, set the tone quickly, as the Tigers canned 9-of-36 shots in the first half, which included a 1-for-12 showing from beyond the arc. Things didn't get much better for the Tigers on the other side of halftime, as DePauw went 11-for-33 down the stretch.
Senior Eric Bulic turned in a solid stretch at the game's onset at both ends of the floor. The forward had a block and defensive rebound in the midst of a 10-0 stretch before capping the run with a nifty old-school three-point play that had the Scots looking exceptionally strong at 17-4 with 15:13 left in the opening half.
Later in the half, Wooster's team speed took over during an 8-0 spurt. Bulic had the Scots rolling with a steal at the 4:16 mark, and right after, senior Reece Dupler capped the run-out with a layup that made it a 36-19 contest with 4:10 to go.
Junior Danyon Hempy, who scored 18 points in the opening stanza, put the exclamation point on the period with a thunderous alley hoop slam with 1:58 remaining. That play was also set up via points off turnovers, as the guard jumped the passing lane prior to the big firework at the offensive end.
Hempy slammed home a second dunk with 19:01 left in the game, and that's when Wooster's lead ballooned out to a game-high 25 points at 46-21.
Sophomore Keonn Scott led the way during Wooster's strongest stretch of the second period. The guard knocked down a three-pointer and hit a tough jumper with 4:44 to go to make it a 67-43 contest. Sandwiched in between there was a fine all-around effort by Dupler who assisted on the trifecta, came up with a steal, and was off to the races for a fast-break layup at the 5:24 mark.
Bulic turned in a compete game with 14 points, 13 rebounds, three of Wooster's seven blocked shots, and three steals. Hempy scored a game-high 24 points and passed out a game-high four dimes.
Dupler (15) and Scott (11) rounded out the Scots in double figures scoring, while sophomore Dontae Williams corralled six rebounds.
Wooster shot 51.7 percent (30-for-58) for the game, out-rebounded DePauw 41-35, and had assists on 16 of its 30 field goals.
Nick Felke paced DePauw with 13 points, while Nolan Ginther chipped in 11.
The Tigers did have three fewer turners than the Scots with 13 in the ballgame.
In the nightcap, James Johnson led four Tigers in double figures with a team-high 19 points. Connor Seipel finished a rebound shy of a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds, while Mitchell Balser dished out a game-high eight assists.
Wittenberg was 56.1 percent (32-for-57) from the field and an impressive 16-for-17 at the charity stripe.
Wabash was led by Harrison Hallstrom's game-high 22 tallies in the scoring column, and the forward tied for the team lead with seven boards.
The Little Giants connected at 50 percent (29-for-58) from the field.
Ticket sales for the 119th all-time Wooster-Wittenberg game will begin at 2:30 p.m. This'll be the 13th of a possible 29 times the two teams will meet with the NCAC Tournament title on the line.