UNIVERSITY HTS., Ohio – Another thrilling season of College of Wooster men's basketball came to a close on Saturday evening as John Carroll University topped the Fighting Scots 91-85 in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Div. III Championships at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center. While the result didn't go Wooster's way, the Scots' season did have a March ending for the 21st time in the last 22 years.
"There were disappointments for sure, but overall, I'm proud of our players," said head coach Steve Moore. "They accomplished a lot, and got themselves into the national tournament again. That was very positive."
Wooster (22-7) needed nearly four minutes to become fully acclimated with the aggressive, in-your-face, full-court pressure style of play that's John Carroll's (25-5) calling card, and in that span, the Blue Streaks raced out to a 10-0 run and caused five turnovers. That quick spurt ultimately proved to be the difference as Wooster outscored John Carroll 85-81 from there.
"The start of the game was not good," said Moore. "We battled back all night long. It was good that we battled, but we dug a deep hole there. We got it down within three points late, and then John Carroll made some big plays. You have to give them a lot of credit for making plays."
Sophomore Danyon Hempy charged down the floor with a full head of steam, spun up a floater, drew the foul, and converted on the old-school three-point play to put the Scots on the board at the 16:01 mark. Hempy's spark led to a 7-3 run and the Scots' trademarks of the season – stifling defense and rebounding – led the way as Wooster pulled within three at 13-10 6:30 into the game. During the run, senior Alex Baptiste took charge with the first of his three blocks of the evening. Offensively, sophomore Trenton Tipton snared a big rebound and finished the stick-back, and Baptiste knocked out a lengthy board to the perimeter that ultimately led to senior Ari Stern swinging the ball to Hempy who canned a bucket to cap the run.
Wooster, which pulled within one possession numerous times on the evening, could never muster enough of a run to take the lead. The Scots cut the Blue Streaks' lead to three at 19-16 with 11:06 to go before halftime when Stern drove in for a lay-in that was set up by a Baptiste offensive rebound.
Later in the first half, junior Reece Dupler backed his man down in the paint for a trade-marked one-handed floater, and a Hempy reverse lay-in on the fast break made it 28-25 with 5:25 left in the opening half.
With 75 ticks before halftime, Hempy collected a loose ball in the corner, spun around, and nailed a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game for the fourth time of the opening stanza at 36-33, but the Blue Streaks bumped the lead out to seven at the half.
In the second half, Wooster's defense stepped up to keep the game within reach as Baptiste had two early blocks and junior Eric Bulic swatted away a shot as well.
Dupler took the lead offensively with 10 of the Scots' first 12 points, and he assisted on the Black and Gold's lone bucket over the first 5:29 of the stanza that he didn't score. Dupler's drive at the 14:31 mark pulled Wooster the closest it was all night – two – as at that point it was a 45-43. Then, the guard's tear drop made it a two point game again at 47-45.
John Carroll's Matthew Csuhran kept the Blue Streaks on top with 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half, including several key ones as the Scots were vying for their first lead of the game.
A 10-4 John Carroll run pulled the lead back out to nine, but senior Spencer Williams went coast-to-coast to make it a two-point game again at 62-60 at the 7:55 mark. Wooster again was within two at 64-62 on a Dupler lay-in.
John Carroll ultimately used a 10-2 run to put the game nearly out of reach as that led to a 77-66 advantage, but Wooster did all it could to claw its way back into the contest, and came within three at 88-85 with :20 to go on a Hempy bucket.
Dupler led the way with 24 points, 22 of which came after halftime. The junior shot 10-for-15 from the floor and was a perfect 4-for-4 at the charity stripe.
Williams, who scored 10 points, wrapped up his remarkable collegiate career with 1,644 – the seventh-most in program history.
"Spencer had an excellent career and contributed a lot over the last four years," said Moore.
Baptiste's three blocks gave him 98 for his three-year career at Wooster, and that's also the seventh-highest mark in the career annals.
"Our seniors really competed and have had fine careers," summed up Moore. "Alex was playing his best basketball in the last part of the season. That's a testament to him. Ari, too. Ari played his best basketball here late in the season. Our two seniors who didn't play a lot – Derek Schwarz and Ryan Wobbe – were a big part of the program, too."
John Carroll finished with four players in double figures, including Antonio Vuyancih, who chipped in 16 points and six rebounds.