DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University knocked down eight of its first 11 second-half 3-pointers, and used a 7-0 stretch that started with just over five minutes remaining in the game to pull away from The College of Wooster men's basketball team in an 81-72 win on Saturday afternoon at Branch Rickey Arena. The win moves the Battling Bishops into solo possession of first-place in the North Coast Athletic Conference standings, and gives Ohio Wesleyan a one-game lead on Wooster and Denison University with two regular-season games left on the schedule.
Wooster (16-7, 13-3 NCAC), who saw its 10-game win streak snapped in a meeting of two teams who hadn't lost since Wooster topped Ohio Wesleyan (17-6, 14-2 NCAC) 99-76 back on Jan. 7, led nearly the entire first half, and the opening 5:09 of the second stanza.
The Scots countered a game-opening 3-pointer by Ohio Wesleyan's Seth Clark, with a triple of their own from sophomore Reece Dupler. That sparked an 11-3 stretch with senior Dan Fanelly taking charge with the last five points of the segment that also featured a key steal from Dupler.
Ohio Wesleyan pulled within one at 15-14 with 10:23 left in the first half after junior Nate Axelrod contributed his first two buckets of the afternoon. Then, Dupler and Fanelly continued to click offensively and combined for six straight points to extend the lead to seven at 21-14 at the 7:16 mark.
Later, Ohio Wesleyan again pulled within one, this time at 31-30 with 2:59 to go in the opening stanza. Wooster countered with a 7-0 clip to close out the half, with Dupler accounting for five of the points, including on an and-one.
Then, Ohio Wesleyan, who was 5-for-19 from beyond the arc in the opening period, knocked down trifectas on three of its first four second-half possessions to pull within one at 40-39 with 16:59 remaining.
The barrage of 3-pointers kept falling for Ohio Wesleyan as Ben Simpson knocked down a pair to give the Bishops their first lead since the opening seconds at the 14:51 mark after junior Spencer Williams had pushed Wooster's lead to four on an old-fashioned three-point play.
In fact, Ohio Wesleyan held a six-point lead (62-56) with just under eight minutes remaining, and again, a long-range jumper proved to be a key in that as Axelrod connected from beyond the arc.
Wooster rallied back and tied the game at 62 with 6:43 remaining when Dupler went coast-to-coast after a defensive rebound and drew a foul. Then, at the 5:25 mark, Wooster briefly regained the lead on a pull-up jumper by Williams from the elbow that made it 66-65 prior to Axelrod burying a 3-pointer 13 ticks later to spark the game-clinching 7-0 run.
Fanelly led the way for Wooster with 21 points – his fifth-straight 20-point game – and 11th of the season. Dupler delivered a fine offensive afternoon with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting to pair with six rebounds. Williams reached double figures with 17 points to go along with five boards.
Other notable stats include eight rebounds and two blocks from sophomore Eric Bulic.
Simpson paced Ohio Wesleyan with 25 points while Axelrod chipped in 24 and dished out five assists. Clark corralled a game-high 10 rebounds and turned in a double-double with 17 points.
Both teams shot the ball exceptionally well on the afternoon with Wooster's 49.2 percent (29-for-59) clip barely edging out Ohio Wesleyan's 49.1 percentage (28-for-57).
Wooster travels to Kenyon College (5-18, 4-12 NCAC) for an 8 p.m. tilt on Wednesday, Feb. 15.