WOOSTER, Ohio – Senior Reece Dupler made a spectacular spinning layup with 3.6 seconds left that held as the game-winner, as the 12th-ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team was pushed to the brink by Allegheny College, but ultimately pulled through to advance to its 23rd straight North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal with a 91-89 win on Tuesday evening at Timken Gymnasium.
Top-seeded Wooster (22-4) will serve as the host for the NCAC Tournament semifinals and championship game this Friday and Saturday. Wooster will play in the 5:30 p.m. game on Friday against fourth-seeded DePauw University (17-9), while second-seeded and No. 22 Wittenberg University (21-5) will play third-seeded and No. 25 Wabash College (21-5) in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The two winners will play in Saturday's championship game, with tipoff from Timken Gymnasium set for 4 p.m.
|Freshman Khaylen Mahdi tied the game at 87 with this layup. He scored a career-high 16 points and his defense was one of the big reasons why Wooster rallied back to win.|
While Dupler was the hero with the game-winner, it was ultimately freshman Khaylen Mahdi who factored heavily into willing the Scots to victory. The determined rookie scored a career-high 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting, which included four clutch three-pointers. Defensively, Mahdi logged a pair of steals, and while they don't show up as anything for the freshman on the stat sheet, he was directly responsible for several additional Allegheny miscues.
Wooster was down by as many as 13 in the second half, and the Scots' deficit was nine as late as the 6:28 mark. That's when Dupler's steal and subsequent fast-break dunk cut Wooster's deficit to seven at 79-72, and the senior's old-fashion three-point play with 5:06 remaining had the Scots within one at 79-78.
Dupler's jumper with 3:59 to go gave Wooster an 82-81 lead, in what marked the Scots' first edge since late in the first half. Allegheny's Billy Urso answered right back with a three-pointer, but Dupler was more than up to the task with a trifecta of his own.
Faced with a two-point deficit, Mahdi delivered his final two points of the night with a floater with 1:18 left that tied the game at 87, and senior Eric Bulic's lay-in with 35 ticks left tied the game at 89.
Allegheny's Jordan Rawls had a chance to send the Gators home winners, but his buzzer-beater was off the mark.
In the first half, Wooster never led by more than two, and when all was said and done, the Scots were faced with an eight-point halftime deficit at 48-40. Junior Danyon Hempy and Mahdi did their parts to carry the team with 16 and six points, respectively, but Wooster didn't get the job done defensively. Allegheny shot a remarkable 69 percent (20-for-29) over the first 20 minutes.
Hempy led Wooster with 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting, which included a 5-for-9 outing from beyond the arc. The junior added a team-best six assists.
Dupler continued his run of 20-point games, and he's now at five straight after a stat line of 20 points and five assists, which were paired with a co-game-high four steals.
Wooster shot 53.8 percent (35-for-65) for the game and was 14-for-31 from beyond the arc. Key to the win were 20 second-half points off turnovers to Allegheny's zero.
Rawls led Allegheny with 28 points, while freshman Brian Roberts, Jr. was equally as impressive with 25 points and eight assists. The duo went a combined 19-for-32 for the game, including 8-for-11 from three-point land.
Allegheny ended the game at 61 percent (36-for-59) shooting and Gators outrebounded the Scots by 13.
Wooster's now 71-18 all-time in the NCAC Tournament, which includes a 55-9 ledger at home and a 30-5 record in the quarterfinal round.