WOOSTER, Ohio – The ninth-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team's remarkable 12-game winning streak was snapped by archrival Wittenberg University, which took the 118th all-time meeting between the winningest two programs in NCAA Div. III history 84-74 on Saturday evening at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster (19-4, 14-2 North Coast Athletic Conference), which carries a one-game lead over No. 18 Wabash College (19-4, 13-3 NCAC) into the final week of the regular season, was within six at 76-70 with 47 seconds left after senior Reece Dupler secured a defensive rebound, and sophomore Keonn Scott canned a transition three-pointer.
That's as close as Wooster came over the final 10 minutes, and the deficit didn't stay at six for long, as James Johnson, Mitchell Balser, and Jacob Bertemes combined to go a perfect 8-for-8 at the charity stripe after Scott's three-pointer.
Despite the outcome, Wooster did its best to string together a spirited comeback attempt, as the Scots found themselves down 71-52 with 4:16 remaining. Dupler's jumper at the 3:56 mark opened an 18-5 Wooster stretch that ended with Scott's three-pointer. During the run, Blake Blair sparked the Scots upon being inserted into the game for the first time on "senior night" with a three-pointer at the 2:44 mark.
A near 20-percent shooting discrepancy in the opening half ultimately proved to be one of the Scots' shortfalls in a game in which Wittenberg (18-5, 12-4 NCAC) led nearly wire-to-wire. Senior Eric Bulic made a layup in transition after a steal by sophomore Dontae Williams to give Wooster its first lead at 10-9 with 11:27 left in the opening half.
|Freshman Khaylen Mahdi's first-half bucket gave No. 9 Wooster one of its two leads of the night against Wittenberg. The Scots had their 12-game losing streak snapped, and their lead in the standings of one of small college basketball's greatest rivalries trimmed to 60-58.|
Wooster again led by one at the 9:54 mark when freshman Khaylen Mahdi floated in a bucket, but Ridge Young's lay-in with 9:13 left before halftime gave the Tigers the lead for the duration of the contest.
Wooster was within one twice, including at the 6:36 mark of the opening half when junior Trenton Tipton knocked down a three-pointer, but Wittenberg exploded for a half-closing 9-0 stretch to open up a 13-point advantage.
Dupler led Wooster with a game-high 20 points, which included a memorable milestone. The senior knocked down a pair of free throws with 11:25 remaining in the game to become the 15th player in the tradition-rich program's history to reach 1,400 career points.
Three other starters joined Dupler in double figures in the scoring column in junior Danyon Hempy (14), Tipton (13), and Bulic (11). Bulic's nine rebounds marked the game-high, while Hempy (7) and Williams (6) helped stake Wooster to a slight 32-31 edge on the glass.
Other stats to note included four assists and two blocked shots by Hempy and three assists each by Bulic and Dupler.
Wooster shot 44.4 percent (28-for-63) for the game and had nine steals.
Six of the eight players who saw action for Wittenberg finished with double digit points. The Tigers were led by Balser's 18, while Johnson and Connor Seipel had 14 points and eight rebounds each.
Wittenberg shot 50.9 percent (28-for-55) for the game and went a remarkable 22-for-25 at the charity stripe.
The Tigers pulled within two games of first-place in the NCAC race with the victory.
With the win, Wooster's lead on the all-time series is now back at two at 60-58. The regular-season split is a first in the rivalry since the 2015-16 season, while it's the first time since 2009-10 where there's been a regular-season split with the road team winning both times.
Next, Wooster hosts Oberlin College (13-10, 9-7 NCAC) at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13.