Back-and-Forth Thriller Goes Terriers Way as Hiram Tops No. 17 Wooster 72-68

Alex Baptiste

Senior Dan Fanelly's jumper with 3:55 gave the 17th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team a 64-62 lead before Hiram College's Paul Ortiz knocked down a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run with 1:42 remaining as the Terriers went on to top the Fighting Scots 72-68 in an exciting back-and-forth North Coast Athletic Conference contest on Wednesday evening at Price Gymnasium in Hiram, Ohio.

The game had a similar ending to Wooster's (4-3, 2-2 NCAC) Saturday contest at Wabash College, where a pair of free throws by the Scots made it a two-possession game with under 15 seconds remaining against the Little Giants. In tonight's game, Hiram's (2-4, 1-0 NCAC) Kyle Deckerd sank a pair at the charity stripe with nine seconds left to make it a two-possession game, and Wooster could not connect on the offensive end of the floor on the ensuing possession.

Ortiz accounted for the first four points of the night before junior Alex Baptiste knotted the score at six with 17:17 left in the half in what was the first of 12 ties in the contest.

Later, a 3-pointer from junior Spencer Williams gave Wooster its first lead of the game at 11-10 with 14:44 remaining in the opening period, marking the first of 14 lead changes in the contest. That's where the score stood until Jake Williams' and-one sparked a 7-0 run that was capped by a Deckerd 3-pointer giving Hiram its largest lead of the night at 18-12 with just over nine minutes to go in the half.

Next, Wooster started to heat up offensively and find its rhythm on the offensive end of the floor as the Scots went 7-for-13 from the field over the final 8:27 of the stanza. Freshman Danyon Hempy knocked down a jumper and sophomore Reece Dupler connected on a 3-pointer to spark the closing stretch of the first half, and both of those buckets came during a 9-0 Wooster run putting the Scots up 21-18 with 6:34 to go in the half.

Towards the end of the period, a dunk by Hempy and a lay-in by Baptiste tied the score at 33 at the half.

Baptiste continued to lead the way in the early moments of the second half as he gave the Scots leads at 35-33, and then again at 37-36, as neither team found much offensive rhythm over the first five minutes of the second half.

Then, Ortiz connected on a pair of 3-pointers , the second of which pushed Hiram's lead to four (44-40) with 14:19 left in the game, and the Terriers later extended their lead to five at 47-42 on a pair of Jeremiah Thomas free throws just over a minute later.

Hiram's edge didn't hold as Williams converted an and-one play to pull Wooster within two (47-45) with 12:44 remaining, and right at the midway point of the half capped a fast break after a Baptiste steal to give Wooster its first lead since the 16:54 mark of the half at 51-50.

Wooster extended its leads to as many as five, and that came at 61-56 when Dupler knocked down a 3-pointer, but Hiram chipped away at the difference with an and-one play by Ortiz capping a 6-1 Hiram run prior to Fanelly's bucket in the paint that gave the Scots their final lead of the night.     

Fanelly continued to impress in all facets of the game, and the senior led Wooster in points (15) and assists (6) on the night. Baptiste complemented the power forward with his third career double-double, and the junior set a new career-high with 14 points while securing 10 rebounds.

Dupler and Williams joined the frontcourt starters in double-figures with 14 and 11 points respectively.

Jones and Ortiz combined to score 50 of Hiram's 72 points on the night.

Notable, Wooster dominated Hiram in rebounding 48-30, and held the Terriers to five offensive rebounds in the game.

Next, Wooster hosts DePauw University (3-4, 1-1 NCAC) at 3 p.m. on Saturday.