WOOSTER, Ohio – The College of Wooster men's basketball team opened the second half with a 15-0 run to turn an eight-point halftime lead into a 23-point advantage as the Fighting Scots capped "Senior Night" with a 99-71 win over archrival Wittenberg University in front of 2,520 fans inside Timken Gymnasium.
With the win, Wooster (18-7, 15-3 North Coast Athletic Conference) earned a season sweep over its longtime rival, and that proved to be a key in the NCAC tiebreaking procedures, making the Scots the No. 2 seed for next week's league tournament. Wooster will host seventh-seeded Wabash College (11-14, 7-11 NCAC) at a time still to be determined on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Of note, Wooster now leads the all-time series with Wittenberg (17-8, 11-7 NCAC) 59-55 and has now won 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Prior to the game, Wooster honored its two seniors – Milt Davis and Dan Fanelly – and both made a major impact in the game. Davis accounted for the Scots' first three points of the night at the free throw line, while Fanelly knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers during the decisive second-half stretch.
Wittenberg opened an early 8-4 lead after a Landon Hormann 3-pointer, but Fanelly put Wooster up for good when he finished a fast-break layup feed from sophomore Mitch Balser after Fanelly started the break with a steal. That bucket made it 9-8 with 14:15 to go in the half.
|Sophomore Mitch Balser scored a season-high 21 points. He went 8-for-10 from the field, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc during Wooster's 99-71 win over Wittenberg.|
Speaking of Balser, the guard scored 10 straight Wooster points in the first half to help the Scots open up a seven-point edge at 22-15 with just over 10 minutes remaining in the stanza.
Just over a minute later, Hormann answered with five straight points, including a 3-pointer that made it 24-22 with 8:06 to go in the period. Davis answered right back with a 3-pointer of his own for Wooster, and Wittenberg didn't pull within a single possession for the remainder of the game. In fact, Davis' trifecta sparked a 7-0 run with five of the points coming from the two seniors, enabling the Scots to extend the lead out to nine at 31-22 with 6:14 to go in the half.
Wooster twice extended the lead to 10 in the opening stanza, first on a fast-break layup by Davis with 2:16 remaining that made it 43-44, and then on a pair of free throws from sophomore Reece Dupler that made it 45-35, before the Scots settled for an eight-point halftime lead at 45-37.
In the second half, Wooster opened with 3-pointers on three straight possessions - including the two from Fanelly - prior to Dupler connecting from inside, on the fast-break after his own steal, and twice from the charity stripe to account for the final six points of the decisive stretch.
Later, Wooster opened up a co-game-high 32-point lead at 76-44 with 11:20 remaining after a 12-point run that saw 3-pointers knocked down by Balser and junior Spencer Williams, prior to Davis capping the stretch with a pair of free throws.
Balser led the offense on the night with a season-high 21 points while shooting 8-for-10 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from beyond the arc. Fanelly added 19 points and four rebounds. Notable, Fanelly's layup with 9:17 remaining in the game moved the senior past W Association Hall of Famer Dan Thomas for seventh on the program's all-time scoring list.
Dupler and Williams rounded out the Scots in double figures with 18 and 16 points respectively.
Sophomore Eric Bulic turned in another fine night down low with eight rebounds, three blocks, and two steals.
For the game, Wooster shot 57.4 percent (35-for-61), including a remarkable 67.9 percent (19-for-28) in the second half.
Cody Phillippi led Wittenberg with a game-high 23 points. Of note, Wooster held Jaelin Williams – who turned in a double-double in the first meeting this season – to three points and three rebounds on the night.