WOOSTER, Ohio – Junior Eric Bulic connected on the front end of a one-and-one with :01.0 remaining to give The College of Wooster men's basketball team its first lead of the night, as the Fighting Scots mounted a furious comeback to top Worcester Polytechnic Institute 76-75 after trailing by 17 with 12:12 remaining in the nightcap of day one of the 55th annual E.M. "Mose" Hole/Wooster Kiwanis Classic at Timken Gymnasium.
|Junior Eric Bulic's (No. 4) free throw with :01.0 remaining put Wooster ahead of WPI for the first time on the night, and was the exclamation point of a spectacular rally that saw the Scots come back from 17 points down.|
Wooster (8-3) worked the clock down for the final shot attempt after WPI's (5-5) Chris Rodgers missed a pair of free throws with :24.2 remaining and the score knotted up at 75. Senior Spencer Williams' go-ahead jumper was off the mark, but Bulic was fouled on the rebound attempt setting the stage for the go-ahead point.
WPI led by five after Jake Needleman's fourth 3-pointer of the game made it a 75-70 tilt with 1:23 to go. Junior Reece Dupler answered 10 ticks later with a 3-pointer of his own – the fourth field goal from beyond the arc Wooster made as a team during its 17-point comeback – and the Scots came up with a stop on the defensive end of the floor. Then, sophomore Danyon Hempy buried a jumper with :39 remaining to tie the game at 75.
Kahleb Downing's 3-pointer with 12:12 to go nearly had the game out of reach as that extended WPI's advantage to 64-47. Dupler countered with a long-range field goal of his own to spark the comeback as that 3-pointer kicked off a 13-1 run with a Hempy jumper at the other end of the scoring spree pulling Wooster within five at 65-60 with 8:08 to play.
During the run, Dupler made a pair of big plays on the defensive end of the floor in two steals, both of which led to points. Junior Simon Texidor knocked down a pair of free throws after the first steal, and a Williams penetration lay-in capped the offensive possession after Dupler's second steal.
Hempy trimmed WPI's lead down to a single possession with 3:21 to go as his 3-pointer made it a 67-65 game, but the Engineers didn't go down quietly. Rodgers quickly pumped in a jumper at the other end to bump WPI's lead back out to four with just over three minutes remaining.
WPI, which carried a double-digit lead into the second half, came out of the gate strong again, this time mounting a 5-0 run capped by a Jake Wisniewski lay-in.
Later, Wooster trimmed its deficit to nine when Hempy swiped in for a steal and then converted on the old-fashioned three-point play on the offensive end that made it 52-43 with 14:53 to go. However, Needleman countered right back with a modern-era 3-pointer, and that led to a 6-1 run for WPI in the lead up to its eventual 17-point second-half lead.
In the first half, Wooster's persistence on the offensive glass led to a pair of early second-chance buckets, which tied the game at four less than 2:30 into the contest.
From there, it remained a single-possession affair until Dave Zielinski hit his third of four first-half 3-pointers to make it 15-11 with 14:32 to go in the opening stanza. In fact, Zielinski later made it a three-possession game with 8:15 to go in the opening half with his last 3-pointer before Wooster's defense zeroed in on the outside threat and held him scoreless for the remainder of the contest.
Prior to Zielinski's last 3-pointer, Wooster pulled back within four courtesy of a combination of defense and transition speed. On the defensive side of things, first-year Keonn Scott logged a steal, and then offensively Dupler kicked the ball to the corner where junior Blake Blair quickly hoisted up a 3-pointer in transition.
Dupler led the way for Wooster with a season-high 24 points, one shy of his career-best. Dupler's night included a 4-for-5 mark from beyond the arc as part of a 10-for-16 performance from the floor, and he added seven rebounds and two steals.
Williams backed Dupler up in the scoring column with 18 points to pair with six rebounds and four assists, while Bulic secured a game-high 12 rebounds.
Notable, Friday's comeback was reminiscent of the Scots' rally from 17 down with 8:54 remaining in the 2011 NCAA Div. III Championship semifinal game when they trailed 63-46 before prevailing 73-71 to reach the national championship game.
Needleman led four Engineers in double figures with 15 points on an impressive 5-for-6 night from the floor, which included a 4-for-5 outing from beyond the arc. Reid Walker secured eight of WPI's 36 rebounds.
In the first game of the classic, Emory & Henry College (10-0) kept its perfect record intact with a thrilling 85-82 overtime win over Alma College (3-7).
Emory & Henry's John Shelor scored a game-high 26 points, and all five Wasp starters were in double figures, including Chase Branscomb and Alic Wynn, who each logged double-doubles in the contest.
Alma's Ryan Stevens finished one point and one rebound shy of a triple-double, and his 12 assists marked the second-most in the history of the classic.
Saturday's schedule pits Alma against WPI in the 3 p.m. consolation game with Emory & Henry and Wooster to follow in the championship game, which will begin no earlier than 5 p.m.