WOOSTER, Ohio – The 16th ranked College of Wooster men's basketball team marched into the second round of the 2019 NCAA Div. III Championships behind a well-balanced effort on both ends of the floor, as the Fighting Scots' comfortably pulled away from Baruch College for an 81-57 triumph on Friday evening at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster (24-5) will play Wheaton College (Ill.) (20-8) in Saturday's 7 p.m. second-round contest at Timken Gymnasium. The Thunder were 84-73 winners over Hanover College (21-7) in Friday's first game.
Wooster's biggest highlight came with 3:11 to go, and the Scots comfortably on top 71-55. That's when senior Reece Dupler padded to the lead with an old-school three-point play, during which he surpassed 500 points for the season. Coupled with junior Danyon Hempy's now 590 points this year, it's just the second time in program history the Black and Gold have had a pair of 500-point scorers, with the other being Wooster legends James Cooper and Tom Port during the 2006-07 campaign. In fact, Wooster's only had 13 500-point seasons overall in the storied program's tradition-rich history.
At the onset, Wooster's big men set the tone with sophomore Dontae Williams and senior Eric Bulic swatting aside Bearcat (22-6) shots within the first minute and change, while senior Trey Miller sparked the Scots courtesy of a steal and fast-break layup. The latter put Wooster up for good with 17:14 left in the opening half.
From there, second-chance and bench points factored heavily into Wooster opening a 44-28 lead at the break. Williams' stick-back at the 15:33 mark of the opening half started the second-chance trend, while junior Trenton Tipton stepped up and canned a pair of three-pointers, the second of which upped the ante to 14 at 22-8 with 11:04 to go in the first period.
Sophomore Keonn Scott joined in the action at both ends of the floor, most notably with a steal just before the seven-minute mark, and Bulic capped the ensuing fast-break with a layup.
|Sophomore Keonn Scott scored 14 of the Scots' 27 bench points.|
While it was the Scots balance on full display in the first half, a heavy dosage of Dupler and Hempy filled the stat sheet after halftime. The duo combined for 24 of the Scots' 37 second-half points on 9-for-14 shooting. Hempy accounted for the Scots' first seven points of the stanza, and it wasn't until the 12:24 mark that a Wooster player not named Dupler and Hempy found the scoring sheet post-halftime.
That came in the form of Scott's third of an eventual four three-pointers in the game, and the sophomore was deadly from range again less than two minutes later.
Dupler led five Scots in double figures with a game-high 19 points. The senior turned in a stuffed stat sheet thanks to six rebounds, a game-high four steals, and three assists.
Hempy was right behind with 17 points and one-upped Dupler in the rebounding column, while Scott (14), Tipton (13), and Williams (12) rounded on the Scots with double digit points.
It was ultimately Williams who stood out above the rest in the rebounding column with a game- and season-high 10 rebounds.
Coming into the game, Wooster was faced with a tall order as Baruch's 38.0 opponent field goal percentage and 62.0 points per game ranked within the top six among all NCAA Div. III programs. Wooster converted at just over 16-percent better than the collective whole had fared against the Bearcats this year, as the Scots finished the night at 54.2 percent (32-for-59).
Additionally, Wooster easily won the rebounding battle 40-31, with the Scots holding the Bearcats to over 10 below their season average.
William Sixsmith scored 15 points in his final game for the Bearcats, while fellow senior Andre Harris logged 12.
Baruch shot 32.8 percent (20-for-61) for the game, but the Bearcats did force the Scots into 19 turnovers.
In Friday's first game, Wheaton's Aston Francis – the NCAA's all-divisions scoring leader at 32.3 coming into the game – erupted for 42 points and a double-double effort behind 13 rebounds.
Wheaton shot exactly 50 percent (30-for-60) for the game, with the Thunder assisting on 17 of their 30 field goals.
Hanover was led by Isaac Hibbard, who scored 18 points while securing six rebounds.
The Panthers converted on 38.5 percent (25-for-65) of their field goals.
Worth nothing, while Wooster has made a NCAA Div. III record 17 straight appearances in the championship field, Friday's game marked the first time in five years the Scots played at home in the NCAA Tournament.
Ticket sales for Saturday's game will begin at 5:30 p.m.