WOOSTER, Ohio – Junior Eric Bulic recorded five of The College of Wooster men basketball team's 12 blocks, and Wooster made 19-of-22 free throws over the final 15:39, as the Fighting Scots topped fourth-ranked Hanover College 87-79 on Saturday afternoon at Timken Gymnasium.
Wooster (3-1), which led wire-to-wire in its first win over a D3hoops.com top-five team since the Scots topped then-fifth-ranked Wheaton College (Ill.) 77-73 in the championship game of the 2013 Al Van Wie/Wooster Rotary Classic, opened up a 9-2 lead at the 16:08 mark of the first half on a layup by senior Spencer Williams, but the Scots' team defense really set the tone from the get-go.
Wooster came away with steals – first by junior Reece Dupler and then by classmate Blake Blair – on two of Hanover's (3-1) first five possessions. Then, Bulic logged the first of his career-high five blocks on the possession after Blair's steal, and for good measure, Blair poked the ball away from Hanover's Colin Smith on the Panthers' trip down the court following Bulic's block.
In fact, Wooster's big plays on defense continued as a Dupler swat gave the Scots three steals and two blocks within the first 3:52 of the game.
Later, a pair of steals helped key a 6-0 Wooster run which gave the Scots their first double-digit lead of the day. That came courtesy of a fast-break layup by sophomore Danyon Hempy after junior Trey Miller swiped the ball away from the Panthers' Wes McKinney and passed the ball ahead to Hempy. Then, Hempy logged a steal, and that led to a Bulic dunk to cap the run.
Near the end of the first half, Bulic logged three blocks in a span of 1:18, and that helped play a large role in Wooster keeping a decent edge as Hanover cut its deficit to seven with :47 to go when a pair of Kevin Williams free throws made it 36-29.
In the second half, Hanover pulled within two on a 3-pointer by McKinney that made it 36-34 with 18:50 to go, but a Blair 3-pointer with 17:43 remaining sparked a 6-0 run, and the Scots bumped the lead out to nine at 45-36 on a Hempy free throw 15:59 left.
Next, two free throws by Bulic at the 15:39 mark kick-started a 19-for-22 stretch at the charity stripe after Wooster made its lone free throw in the first half, and started the second stanza 1-for-3. Coincidentally, Bulic's free throws led to a 10-0 run with Dupler breaking free for six points during the spurt, the last bucket of which bumped Wooster's lead out to 55-39 with 13:07 remaining.
During the run, the Scots had a lot of help on the defensive end, in particular from Hempy and junior Simon Texidor who recorded two blocks and four defensive rebounds respectively during the scoring spree.
Later, Wooster extended its lead to a game-high 19 points at 73-54 when Spencer Williams knocked a free throw with 6:23 remaining to cap a 9-0 spurt. Of note, senior Alex Baptiste recorded his second block of the game during this run, and Williams even got in on the action with his second swat of the year.
Hanover hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut its deficit back to single digits with 1:54 to go, but Wooster maintained at least a three-possession lead down the stretch.
Dupler led five Scots in double figures with a season-high 23 points, and his all-around game featured an 11-for-14 afternoon from the floor and five rebounds. Texidor poured in a career-high 18 points - thanks to four 3-pointers - and likewise to Dupler, secured five rebounds.
Williams chipped in 15 points, and he was one of five Scots with a quintet of boards on the day.
Noteworthy, Wooster's 12 blocks mark the most since the Scots had a dozen against Allegheny College on Jan. 26, 2005.
McKinney led all scorers with 26 points, and he corralled a co-game-high seven rebounds.
Next, Wooster (1-0 North Coast Athletic Conference) turns its attention back to league play as the Scots head to Granville, Ohio for an 8 p.m. tilt at Denison University (3-1, 0-0 NCAC) on Wednesday, Nov. 29.