GREENCASTLE, Ind. — The College of Wooster men’s basketball team overcame another halftime deficit and consecutive 3-pointers in the final 80 seconds shifted all the momentum the Fighting Scots’ way in Saturday afternoon’s 78-69 win at DePauw University’s Neal Fieldhouse.
DePauw (5-8, 2-6 North Coast Athletic Conference) sharpshooter Elijah Hales drained a 3-ball with 1:37 remaining that pulled the Tigers within 70-69, then Wooster (12-4, 8-1 NCAC) first-year Jamir Billings knocked down a triple of his own at the 1:17 mark that made it 73-69. The Tigers’ Nolan Niego’s floater was off the mark inside the final minute, with Billings securing the defensive rebound. The next possession ultimately played a big role in sealing DePauw’s fate, with the Tigers electing not to foul. That enabled Wooster to burn precious time off the clock before senior Najee Hardaway made it a seven-point game on a 3-ball with :31.3 left.
Coming out of a timeout, DePauw quickly looked to Hales, who struggled to get spacing when matched up against Wooster sophomore Carter Warstler, and the Tigers’ star guard did not fare any better when sophomore Elijah Meredith switched onto him in the corner. Hales was eventually whistled for an offensive foul on a push off, then senior Brandon Styers went down and hit both ends of a one-and-one that upped Wooster’s lead to 78-69 at the :16.8 mark.
Wooster, which won for the fifth time this year in a game it trailed at halftime, took the lead for good on junior Turner Kurt’s jumper with 5:41 to go. Key offensive rebounds down the stretch, including one by Warstler, gave the Scots outcoming-influencing second chances. Kurt rewarded Warstler for his success on the offensive glass with a feed, and the Scots’ cutting guard finished at the rim. Then, Kurt powered through contact on a finish with Wooster leading 64-58 at that point. DePauw was within a possession three times before the Scots’ back-to-back triples.
DePauw shot lights out from downtown in the first half. A 10-of-18 showing on three-pointers over the opening 20 minutes of action enabled the Tigers to take a 41-33 lead into halftime. However, the Tigers cooled off in the second half, going just 2-of-12. DePauw went on a 12-0 run late in the opening half, and Styers’ 12 first-half points helped keep the game within reach.
Styers finished a rebound shy of a double-double at 26 points and nine rebounds. He was 9-of-14 from the floor and 3-of-6 on three-pointers. Kurt did have a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards, and he had one of the Scots’ four blocked shots. Hardaway (11) and Billings (10) finished in double digits in the scoring column. Even though Billings’ run of double-digit assist games ended at three, he did continue to stuff the stat sheet there with eight.
Wooster shot 50.8 percent (31-of-61) for the game, was 6-of-22 on three-pointers, and 10-of-18 at the line. The Scots doubled-up the Tigers 44-22 in rebounding. Offensively, Wooster enjoyed a 15-5 edge on the boards, and that led to a 16-3 advantage in second-chance points. Six Scots had an offensive board on the day, with Kurt’s four leading the way. Styers and Warstler had three apiece.
Hales led DePauw with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting. He finished 5-of-10 on three-pointers. Grant Niego was next in the scoring column at 12.
The Tigers shot 40.7 percent (22-of-54) for the game, 40.0 percent (12-of-30) on three-pointers, and went 13-of-16 at the line.
Next, Wooster hosts Oberlin College (5-11, 3-7 NCAC) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 26.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: College of Wooster makes clutch plays to beat DePauw