WOOSTER, Ohio – The 14th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team won its North Coast Athletic Conference-leading 18th championship, upped its run of consecutive 20-win seasons to 23, and a rare occurrence in the tradition-rich program's history took place during the Fighting Scots' 94-86 win over Oberlin College on Wednesday evening at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster's (20-4, 15-2 NCAC) win, plus Wittenberg University's (19-5, 13-4 NCAC) 76-62 victory over No. 24 Wabash College (19-5, 13-4 NCAC) gives the Scots the title outright and the No. 1 seed for next week's NCAC Tournament. It's Wooster's first championship since the 2015-16 season, while the Scots earned the No. 1 seed for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
Wooster held off a late charge by upset-minded Oberlin (13-10, 9-7 NCAC), which had plenty to play for in its own right, having entered the week tied with DePauw University (16-8, 10-7 NCAC) for fourth-place in the NCAC. With just outside a minute remaining, senior Eric Bulic and sophomore Keonn Scott secured two crucial offensive rebounds on the same possession, and junior Trenton Tipton was eventually fouled. Tipton canned both tries at the charity stripe to make it an eight-point game at 88-80 just inside a minute to go, but Joshua Friedkin quickly had the Yeomen right back in the mix with a three-pointer.
Senior Reece Dupler did his part with a pair of points at the charity stripe with 29 ticks left that padded the lead to seven. Next, Christian Fioretti cut Oberlin's deficit to four at 90-86 with 20 seconds left on an old-school three-point play. Then, Dupler and freshman Khaylen Mahdi sealed the game with four free throws down the stretch.
|Wooster won its league-leading 18th NCAC title on Wednesday, and the Scots won their 20th game for a remarkable 23rd consecutive season.|
In the second half, junior Danyon Hempy charged to the bucket for a jumper at the 13:05 mark that had Wooster up nine at 63-54. That upped the junior's career point haul to 1,200, marking the fifth time in program history the Scots have had a pair of 1,200-point scorers on the active roster. Stan Aukamp and Erich Riebe were the first to accomplish the feat in the 1991-92 season, and they've since been joined by Doug Cline and Scott Meech (1994-95), Bryan Nelson and Antwyn Reynolds (2001-02), James Cooper and Tom Port (2006-07), and now Dupler and Hempy.
Wooster's ability to draw fouls factored heavily into the win, as the Scots were 19-for-23 at the charity stripe at halftime, with the 19 makes already marking the fourth-most in a game this season. Dupler and Tipton went a combined 8-for-9, while Dupler accounted for 14 of the Scots' 44 first-half points to help stake the Black and Gold to a 44-38 lead.
When all was said and done, Wooster went 35-for-42 at the line on the night, with Dupler and Tipton's first-half accuracy carrying over to the second half. The duo finished the night 18-for-19.
Of note, Wooster's 35 free throws are tied for the fourth-most in a game in program history, and are the top mark since the Scots had that many against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in the 2010 NCAA Div. III Championships.
For the second straight Wednesday, Dupler scored a game-high 26 points, and he finished one off the team lead in rebounds with six.
Tipton (16), Hempy (15), and Scott (15) joined Dupler in double figures, while Hempy's seven rebounds and four assists marked the team highs.
Wooster shot 51.9 percent (27-for-52) for the game and finished with a 32-24 edge in rebounding.
Noteworthy, Wooster's tied with Duke University for the longest active streak of 20-win seasons at 23. The feat could be short-lived though, as the University of Kansas' next win will mark the Jayhawks 30th consecutive 20-win season. Heading into the season, Kansas was the lone NCAA men's program to have a longer active streak of 20-win seasons than Duke and Wooster.
Friedkin's 22 points led Oberlin, while Fioretti held his own with 19, eight of which came in the second half when he played with four fouls over 14:22 of action. Eli Silverman-Lloyd chipped in with 12 points and six assists.
Oberlin shot 47.6 percent (30-for-63) for the game and was 17-for-19 at the charity stripe.
Next, Wooster wraps up the regular season with a 3 p.m. game at DePauw on Saturday.