Wittenberg University entered the first meeting of the year with The College of Wooster tops in the North Coast Athletic Conference statistically in scoring defense and opposing field-goal percentage, yet it was the Fighting Scots' men's basketball team's defense that stole the show defensively during Wooster's 70-55 win on Saturday evening at Pam Evans Smith Arena in Springfield, Ohio.
Wooster (9-6, 6-2 NCAC) yielded a season-low 55 points in the contest marking the fewest allowed by the Scots since holding Saint Mary's College of Maryland to 35 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico on Dec. 20, 2015. On the flip side, Wooster's 70 points marked the third-most allowed by Wittenberg (10-5, 4-4 NCAC) this season.
Early on Wooster's defense held Wittenberg to 1-for-8 shooting while sophomore Reece Dupler came away with two steals to pair with a block by classmate Eric Bulic. Offensively, Wooster opened up a 7-2 advantage during the game's initial stretch with a Dupler lay-in capping the offense for the Scots at the 17:38 mark.
Later, Wooster opened up a seven-point lead at 18-11 with 10:24 to go in the half when sophomore Mitch Balser slipped inside for an easy bucket off the feed from first-year Danyon Hempy, who added a field goal of his own during a 7-2 run by the Scots.
Wittenberg's posts rallied the Tigers back with a 10-2 clip as Jaelin Williams gave the Tigers their first lead of the night at 21-20 with 5:18 to go in the half, but Wooster's defense ramped up the intensity from there with several big shot contests as the Scots held the Tigers without a point over the ensuing 4:43.
On the other end of the floor, senior Dan Fanelly went coast-to-coast for a lay-in while junior Spencer Williams knocked down 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, and capped Wooster's first-half ending 10-2 burst with a driving layup to give the Scots a 30-23 halftime lead.
Early in the second half, Wooster pulled ahead by nine at 40-31 with 14:27 remaining in the game when Balser knocked down a 3-pointer one possession after a Fanelly steal and dunk. Wittenberg rallied from there with a 7-0 spurt lead by six points from Shane Edwards to pull within two at 40-38 with 11:32 remaining.
Then, Wooster went on a decisive 14-2 run with Bulic and Hempy accounting for 12 of the points. Bulic scored four straight at one point during the run, including an impressive over-the-head bucket after an offensive rebound.
After Wittenberg pulled within 11 (62-51), Williams extended the lead back out to 15 with four free throws.
Hempy led Wooster on the night with a game-high 17 points on 5-of-9 shooting. Williams backed that total up with 15 points while Fanelly filled the stat sheet with 12 points and seven rebounds.
Notable, Fanelly passed W Association Hall of Famer and longtime associate head coach Doug Cline on the program's all-time scoring list on a layup at the 7:51 mark of the first half.
Chad Roy led Wittenberg with 16 points while Jaelin Williams chipped in a double-double with 11 rebounds and 10 points.
Wooster held Wittenberg to 36.7 percent (22-of-60) shooting on the night, including 1-for-14 from beyond the arc.
Wooster now leads the all-time series between the two rivals 58-55 and has won 10 of the last 11 meetings.
Next, Wooster opens up a three-game home stretch with an 8 p.m. clash with Kenyon College (4-11, 3-5 NCAC) on Wednesday.