SPRINGFIELD, Ohio – Sophomore Keonn Scott's career-high 14 points off the bench sparked the 25th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team, and the Fighting Scots ultimately took charge behind second-half runs of 15-2 and 13-2 during a 73-65 win over 13th-ranked Wittenberg University on Saturday evening at Pam Evans Smith Arena.
Junior Danyon Hempy put Wooster (12-3, 7-1 North Coast Athletic Conference) up for good with a pair of free throws with 7:43 remaining, and that marked the first two points of the Scots' 13-2 stretch. Later in the run, Wooster turned defense into offense on several occasions. First, Hempy's steal led to two free throws, and then Scott canned a three-pointer not long after a key blocked shot. Hempy's second block of the night was also cashed in under "points off turnovers," as senior Eric Bulic was on the mark from range to put Wooster up by a game-high 11 points at 67-56 with 4:13 to go.
Down the stretch, Dupler had enough touch on a signature baseline floater, and freshman Khaylen Mahdi went 3-for-4 at the charity stripe to put the game away.
Earlier in the half, Wooster turned the tide behind several offensive rebounds, two of which came prior to Hempy's pull-up jumper over Wittenberg (11-4, 5-3 NCAC) star Connor Seipel that kick-started the Scots' 15-2 outburst. Next, Dupler's driving layup on a second-chance possession pulled Wooster within five at 48-43, and Bulic inched the Scots closer with an old-fashion three-point play. On the Scots' next trip down the floor, Hempy's ball fake crossover gave the junior enough separation from his defender, and the three-pointer gave Wooster its first lead since the opening half.
Wooster was seemingly getting to every loose ball at the game's onset, with the efforts keyed in large part by a pair of defensive rebounds by Hempy and senior Trey Miller outhustling Seipel – the NCAC's leading rebounder – for a lengthy board during the opening stretch that saw the Scots pull out with a 7-4 lead.
The Scots' best offensive stretch of the opening half started with 11:47 to go. That's when Hempy's dump to Bulic in the paint led to an easy lay-in that tied the game at 13. Scott's driving layup shortly after marked the second lead change of the game, and things were trending Wooster's direction at that juncture. Scott continued to impact the game in a positive way with a three-pointer in transition with 8:38 left in the opening half to give Wooster a seven-point cushion at 20-13.
A pair of offensive cold spells in the opening half ultimately had Wooster behind the eight ball for a bit, but the Scots did start off the game with a strong showing defensively. The Tigers were held to four makes on their first 18 field-goal attempts, but did heat up to knock down eight of their final 10 in the opening half en route to taking a 36-28 lead.
Hempy led four Scots in double figures with 16 points, and the junior filled the stat sheet with a career-high nine rebounds. Bulic was right behind with 15 points, and the four-year standout surpassed 500 career points. Dupler matched Scott with 14 points.
Wooster shot 46.4 percent (26-for-56) for the game and was 14-for-19 at the charity stripe.
Seipel led the Tigers with game-highs in points (18) and rebounds (10). Mitchell Balser was the only other player in double figures for the Tigers with 15 points.
Wittenberg shot 41.4 percent (24-for-58) for the game and was also lights out at the free throw line with a 12-for-15 ledger.
Wooster now leads the all-time series between NCAA Div. III's two winningest programs 60-57, which includes 12 wins in the last 15 meetings.
Next, Wooster wraps up the first round of league play with a 7:30 p.m. home tilt against Denison University (5-9, 2-6 NCAC) on Wednesday.