WOOSTER, Ohio – The 14th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team overcame an 11-point second-half deficit with a game-closing 22-5 run over the final 5:33 to post an 81-75 win over upset-minded New Jersey City University in the finale of the 56th annual E.M. "Mose" Hole/Wooster Kiwanis Classic on Sunday afternoon at Timken Gymnasium.
Down 70-59, "Mose" Hole/Kiwanis Classic Most Outstanding Defensive Player Danyon Hempy kicked off the strong closing stretch with a lay-in at the 5:33 mark, and less than a minute later, all-classic team honoree Trenton Tipton's stick-back had Wooster (9-3) back in striking distance at 70-63. Tipton's series of big plays down the stretch continued with 2:34 remaining, when a three-pointer by the junior pulled Wooster within one at 72-71. In fact, Tipton's free throws with 1:27 on the clock marked the go-ahead points.
From there, senior Reece Dupler took over with a spinning layup with just under a minute to go that put Wooster up three at 75-72. Next, the guard secured a defensive rebound and his ensuing driving layup bumped the lead out to five with :20 to go. New Jersey City's (9-4) all-classic team honoree Sam Toney trimmed the lead down to two with a quick pull-up three-pointer, but freshman Khaylen Mahdi's two free throws with :13 to go made it a two-possession game. Dupler canned two more free throws in the waning seconds.
Wooster looked good early, especially on the inside, as the Scots had a high degree of success scoring on the interior during a game-opening 11-4 stretch. Senior Eric Bulic sprinted past the Gothic Knights in transition after Hempy's blocked shot for an easy fast-break lay-in, and "Mose" Hole/Kiwanis Classic Most Valuable Player Dontae Williams and Dupler had buckets inside during the opening stretch. However, 11 misfires in the first-half turnover column ultimately enabled New Jersey City to open up a 42-35 halftime lead behind 13 points off turnovers.
Wooster started to string strong stretches together with about 17:40 left in the game. That's when the Scots turned to Williams, who took advantage of NJCU's defensive switches to score a team-high 22 points on 9-for-13 shooting. Williams' lay-up with 16:17 to go had the Scots within two at 44-42, but not long after, the Gothic Knights' Lavrone Green's old-school three-point play extended Wooster's deficit to eight with 14:31 remaining.
Williams finished two rebounds shy of a double-double, while the 20-point outing marked his fourth of the year. Hempy was also within striking distance of a double-double, thanks to 16 points and a co-game-high eight rebounds. Tipton filled the stat sheet with a 4-for-5 afternoon from the floor and a 4-4 ledger at the charity stripe, which equated to 14 points. Other stats to note include four assists each by Bulic, Dupler, and Hempy.
For the game, Wooster shot a season-best 58.8 percent (30-for-51) from the floor, and a season-high 81.3 percent (13-for-16) at the free throw line. The Scots' 36 rebounds were 14 more than the Gothic Knights logged in the game.
Toney had the game-high in the scoring department with 22, and he was joined on the all-classic team by Yuri Brutus. Shaquan Worthy made his presence felt on the court with five steals and four assists.
NJCU shot 43.9 percent (29-for-66) for the game, was an impressive 15-for-17 at the charity stripe, and only turned the ball over seven times.
Ohio Wesleyan University (6-5) topped Thiel College (3-9) 96-78 in Sunday's first-game. All-classic team honoree Ethan Stanislawski scored a game-high 25 points on 10-for-20 shooting. Nick Carlson heated up from behind the arc with a trio of field goals from range and finished with 17 points.
Thiel's Alonzo Brown rounded out the all-classic team honorees. Brown scored 14 points to pair with four rebounds and three steals. The Tomcats' Ahmad Tejumola scored a team-high 18 points.
Wooster (4-1 North Coast Athletic Conference) is idle until a 3 p.m. home tilt versus DePauw University (8-4, 2-3 NCAC) on Saturday, Jan. 5.