MESA, Ariz. – The 14th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team logged its season-best road shooting percentage, but fourth-ranked Whitman College's relentless pressure proved too tall a task to overcome, as the Black and Gold fell 89-78 on the first day of the Classic in the Valley held at Mesa Community College.
Wooster (7-2) fared well for the first six minutes. Senior Reece Dupler knocked down a pair of early buckets as part of an opening 8-3 stretch, and junior Danyon Hempy carried the load offensively with six quick points, including a pair of free throws at the 14:18 mark when Wooster took its final lead of the game.
Whitman (7-1) locked down from there during a 13-2 run, during which the Blues forced four of their 32 turnovers. After that, Wooster was on the verge of working its way back into the game when senior Eric Bulic came away with a steal, and Hempy capped the fast-break with a lay-in that pulled the Scots within six at 27-21 with 9:22 left in the opening half. Wooster, which had 10 fast-break points in the opening half, was within three at 28-25 with 8:38 on the clock after the Scots quickly pushed the ball up the floor, and that led to fast-break lay-ins by senior Blake Blair and Dupler.
Next, Whitman was locked in from distance as Jack Stewart's three-pointer led to a 13-2 run, during which the Blues knocked down a trio of field goals from distance. Wooster added two more fast-break buckets after that run, and a lay-in by sophomore Dontae Williams with 1:41 to go before halftime made it a five-point game, the closest the Scots came the rest of the way.
Williams briefly sparked the Scots out of the break with an old-school three-point play to start the second half, but Whitman's Michael Gutierrez quickly squashed the momentum by drawing a foul on a three-point shot and sinking all three subsequent free throws.
Wooster's strongest stretch in the second half came with just under 15 minutes remaining. Sophomore Keonn Scott emerged as the sparkplug, starting with a three-pointer in transition. Not long after, the guard came away with a hard-earned steal, and that led to a fast-break bucket by Blair. Next, Scott had another steal.
Hempy scored a game-high 19 points, and the junior was a perfect 6-for-6 from the floor to pair with a 6-for-7 showing at the charity stripe. Hempy added four rebounds and four assists on the afternoon.
Dupler (15) and Blair (11) joined Hempy in double figures, while senior Eric Bulic corralled a team-best six rebounds.
Wooster shot 53.1 percent (26-of-49) from the floor per the game, logged three more rebounds than Whitman, and had assists on 18 of its 26 field goals.
Dame Duckett and Joey Hewitt scored 12 points each to lead the Blues, who had five players in double figures, and seven players with at least eight points. Whitman was equally as balanced in terms of rebounds and assists, as the Blues had three players with at least four boards and three players with a trio of steals.
For the game, Whitman shot 40.3 percent (25-for-62) from the field, 71.4 percent (30-for-42) at the charity stripe, and had 17 steals.
In Tuesday's first game, Sul Ross State University (3-6) topped Alma College (0-8) 97-73. Sul Ross State's B.J. Hollis led all scorers with 27 points on 11-for-16 shooting, which included a 4-for-7 showing from beyond the arc. The Lobos' junior also led the way with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Cole Kleiver led Alma with 18 points.
Wednesday's schedule pits Whitman against Alma at 2 p.m. Eastern/noon Mountain and Wooster against Sul Ross State at 4 p.m. Eastern/2 p.m. Mountain.