Scots Headed to Central New York for Sectional Round, Will Play Host Oswego on Friday Night

Josh Kipfer
Josh Kipfer

After winning games in the first two rounds of the NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship at Washington, D.C., The College of Wooster, in the midst of its Div. III-record 14th-straight national tourney appearance, will be in central New York as the State University of New York at Oswego was selected to host this weekend's sectional round consisting of No. 4 ranked Christopher Newport University (28-1), Keene State College (20-10), Oswego State (22-8), and Wooster (23-7) Friday and Saturday, March 11-12. Round of 16 games will take place Friday, with Christopher Newport and Keene State scheduled to tip-off at 5:30 p.m., at Max Ziel Gymnasium, followed by Wooster and the host Lakers at approximately 7:30 p.m. The two winners will meet Saturday at 7 p.m., for the sectional championship and right to advance to the national semifinals in Salem, Va., on March 18-19.

Ticket Info: As determined by the NCAA, ticket prices for this weekend's sectional round are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens/students/children (age 2-18).

Tickets can be purchased on-line (www.tickets.oswego.edu) or by calling the box office at (315) 312-3073. Also, they will be available the day of the game, with the Laker Hall Box Office set to open Friday at 4:30 p.m., and on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.

On the Air: Oswego State will be providing live video (www.oswegolakers.com/watch/default.aspx) and live stats (www.sidearmstats.com/oswego/mbball/) of all three games.

Additionally, every Wooster game can be heard live in the Wooster area on WQKT 104.5 FM or on the commercial radio station's website at wqkt.com. Mike Breckenridge serves as the "Voice of the Fighting Scots."

NCAA Tourney Notes: The Scots are making their 25th appearance in the NCAA Div. III tourney. Only three others have been in as many – Hope College (25), University of Scranton (27), and Wittenberg University (27).

Wooster, which also played in two other NCAA Tournaments prior to Div. III (1971, 1973), has been in the national field 21 of the last 22 seasons and 24 times since 1990. The Scots' all-time record in the Div. III tourney is 33-25 – 22-8 in games played at Timken Gymnasium, 10-6 at neutral sites, and 1-11 in true road games. Wooster has reached the Div. III sectional round ("Sweet 16") 10 times over the last 18 years, highlighted by runs to the 2011 national championship game and to the semifinals two other times (2003, 2007).

Tournament Tough: Ten of Wooster's 30 games have come against teams that were part of the 2015 NCAA Div. III Men's Basketball Championship field, going 5-5 in such contests. Prior to the wins last weekend, the Scots fell to Skidmore College, 72-63, in their annual Al Van Wie/Rotary Classic, and also suffered non-league setbacks to Salisbury University, 67-50 in a game played at Puerto Rico Dec. 21, and to Marietta College, 72-57 during the title game of their annual "Mose" Hole/Kiwanis Classic. Within the North Coast Athletic Conference, Wooster split the season series with co-champion Ohio Wesleyan University, losing 88-75 on the road Dec. 2 and prevailing 91-90 at home on Jan. 27, and swept Denison University 83-67 and 82-75 during the regular season before being tripped up 92-81 in overtime of the NCAC Tournament championship.

20 20-Win Seasons: In addition to now holding the record for consecutive appearances in the NCAA Div. III Championship, Wooster extended another national mark earlier this year with its 20th consecutive 20-win season. The second-best such streak in Div. III was SUNY Potsdam's 13 in a row (1978-91), while the next best active are the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) and Whitworth University, both having extended their streaks to 11 this season. Among all divisions, Wooster is tied with Duke University for consecutive 20-win seasons, only behind the University of Kansas (27).

All-Time Series: Wooster has never met Oswego State, Christopher Newport, or Keene State on the hardwood.

Head Coach Steve Moore: The architect behind the winningest NCAA men's basketball team of the 2000s is Steve Moore. In addition to guiding Wooster to 433 victories this century, he carries a 29-year record of 691-158 (.814) with the Fighting Scots. Prior to coming to Wooster in 1987-88, Moore coached Muhlenberg College for six seasons and was successful there as well, giving him a career record of 778-223 (.777), which puts him third all-time in wins for Div. III coaches. Moore has eight Coach-of-the-Year honors from the North Coast Athletic Conference.

How The Scots Got Here: Wooster received a Pool C bid, more commonly known as at-large, into the NCAA Div. III Championship field via its 21-7 overall record and strength of schedule entering the tournament.

On March 4, Dan Fanelly (Uniontown, Ohio / Green) delivered a throwback performance during the 1,000th game of head coach Steve Moore's career, as the Wooster junior scored 45 points – the most by a Scot since 1970 – paving the way for a 96-83 victory over previously unbeaten Lancaster Bible College in a first-round game at Catholic University's DuFour Center. Fanelly's 45 points included 21 field goals, which equaled an NCAA Div. III Tournament record for a single game, last accomplished by Gerald Reece of William Penn in 1981, and it tied a Wooster record, established by Tom Dinger back on Jan. 10, 1970. Lancaster Bible, which had a 31-game win streak dating back to last season, accounted for the game's opening points, then the Scots reeled off nine unanswered and never trailed again. A 15-5 run later in the first half helped key Wooster's 41-31 halftime lead, and an early push in the second turned a 45-35 game into a 57-39 margin. The Scots maintained control from there. Fanelly's scoring spree included 30 of his 45 points coming during the second half on 14-of-14 field goals, and he finished with a sterling 21-of-24 shooting rate (.875), plus 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season as well as six assists. Milt Davis (Cincinnati, Ohio / Colerain) added a career-best 18 points, along with five rebounds and four assists, and Spencer Williams (Bedford, Ohio / Orange) put up a similar line of 14 points, six assists, and five boards. Also standing out was Reece Dupler (Newark, Ohio / Lakewood) with nine points, seven rebounds, and six steals, the latter being a Wooster record for an NCAA Tournament game.

On March 5, the Scots dug themselves out of an 11-point hole with about 5:00 left in regulation, piecing together an electrifying rally to force overtime, then steadily took control during the extra five minutes as they completed their comeback, 91-83 over Endicott College in a second-round match-up at the DuFour Center in Washington, D.C. Coming out of a timeout at the 4:58 mark down 70-59, Davis helped spark the comeback as he connected on a baseline jumper and a driving lay-up, with a couple of defensive stops in between. After Endicott came up empty again, Williams hit a 3-pointer and suddenly Wooster was within four (70-66) with 2:37 still remaining. About two minutes later, though, the Scots were still down four and forced to foul at the 42.8 mark. The Gulls missed the front end of a one-and-one, and Wooster took advantage of the opportunity, with Davis hitting an open 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 72-71. Following a timeout, Mitch Balser (Centerville, Ohio / Centerville) stole the ball in the backcourt, with Dupler picking it up and laying it in for the Scots' first lead (73-72) since it was 7-6. Endicott tied it back up by splitting a pair of free throws with 7.4 seconds to play. In overtime, Fanelly scored eight points to lift Wooster to an 83-77 advantage, then Balser and Dupler combined to make 8-of-8 free throws to seal the win. Fanelly, Williams, Dupler, and Balser accounted for more than 80 percent of the Scots' scoring, as they tallied 20, 19, 18, and 16 points, respectively.

Regular Season Recap: Wooster started out ranked No. 20 in the D3hoops.com preseason top-25 poll, but playing six newcomers among its typical 12-man rotation right from the outset resulted in some growing pains.

The Scots were an uncharacteristic 6-4 through the opening 10 games, though, two losses came against top-10 teams Marietta College and Ohio Wesleyan University and another was against regionally-ranked Salisbury University.

As the calendar turned to 2016, Wooster showed improvement while continuing to tinker with the rotation. A four-game win streak included a 100-69 rout of regionally-ranked Hiram College, then archrival Wittenberg University halted that momentum by tripping up the Scots 82-77 in overtime.

That setback, folllowed by the insertion of freshmen Mitch Balser (Centerville, Ohio / Centerville) and Reece Dupler (Newark, Ohio / Lakewood) into the starting lineup, may have been the season's turning point. Chief among the highlights since was a 91-90 victory over Ohio Wesleyan when Spencer Williams (Bedford, Ohio / Orange) sank two free throws with 0.7 seconds remaining and a 99-86 overtime win against Wittenberg as the Scots came back from 10 down with 8:33 to play in regulation.

Hiram prevented Wooster from earning the North Coast Athletic Conference championship outright via a one-point decision (70-69) on Feb. 10, but the Scots still earned a piece of the title – their league-leading 17th overall and 10th of the last 12 years.

A very balanced, efficient offense and solid defense have been the keys to Wooster's success. Seven players are averaging at least 7.0 points, but just two in double figures – Dan Fanelly (Uniontown, Ohio / Green) now at 15.0 and Williams at 14.7 – and as a team, the Scots shot 50 percent or greater from the field seven of the last 12 regular season games (after reaching that level just once the first 13) while averaging 88.3 points during that stretch. On the other end, the Scots lead the league in defensive field-goal percentage (.408) and are helping to force the opposition average 15.7 turnovers.

This and That: Wooster has used an unusual number of different starting lineups this year, currently at 12. For some perspective, the coaching staff only went with a dozen starting lineups the previous three seasons combined ... Senior forward Alex LaLonde (Wooster, Ohio / Wooster) had his career come to a premature end recently due to a blood clot. The two year-starter and team's best defender was averaging 8.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocked shots, and his 95 career blocks rank seventh in school history ... Junior Dan Fanelly (Uniontown, Ohio / Green) recently became the 41st player in the Scots' tradition-rich history to reach 1,000 career points.