Wooster’s men’s basketball team split their games during the week of Thanksgiving. The Scots beat Wilmington College on Saturday Nov. 23 86-65 in the Al Van Wie/Wooster Rotary Classic tournament. With the win, the Scots jumped from 21st to 16th in the national rankings. Unfortunately, the team fell to Mount Union the following Wednesday before Thanksgiving in a tough 81-67 defeat. With this loss, Wooster fell out of the top 25 with a 3-1 record.
The Scots got off to a slow start against Wilmington. The score at the end of the first half was 38-36. No player scored over seven points in the first half despite the team getting 23 rebounds. The team went 13-31 from the field and 3-10 from beyond the arc.The Scots only scored two points in the first three and a half minutes of the game off two free throws while Wilmington put up eight points. “We had a high number of turnovers in the first 23 possessions of the game,” said Head Coach Steve Moore. “This was due to rushing things on offense and not executing vs. pressure defense,” he said. The Scots didn’t capture the lead until there was 2:29 left in the first half with a three pointer from guard Khaylen Mahdi ’22. “We had the ball 19 times more in the first half and only had 2 turnovers as our players started to execute better by passing the ball well,” said Moore.
The Scots went on a 12-0 run in the second half to solidify their lead at 53-43. Five points in that run came from shooting guard Keonn Scott ’21 with a layup and three-pointer. “This improved offense carried over to the second half and helped us achieve the victory,” said Moore. Four Scots scored over seven points into the second half while the team went 17- 27 from the field, both big improvements from the first. All five starters for the Scots scored over ten points in the game including Scott with 18 and forward TrentonTipton ’20 with 15.
Wooster met defeat against defending Ohio Athletic Conference champions Mount Union Raiders 81-67. The Scots again got off to a slow start but couldn’t adjust to the Raiders’ play style. “In the Mount Union game, we again had an inefficient offensive start and while we did improve our offense as the game progressed, we did not get the job done on the defensive end of the court,” stated Moore. The biggest mismatch between the team was three-point shooting. Wooster went 6-28 while Mount Union went for a solid 9-19. Wooster relied more on its starters this game with forward Dontae Williams ’22 and guard Danyon Hempy ’20 both scoring over 20 points. “Mount Union has some very good players who are difficult to defend. At times we guarded them well, but we broke down too often and gave up shots that were not contested well enough.We also failed to get defensive rebounds that led to critical baskets for Mount Union,”said Moore.
The loss is disappointing but not new for a storied program like Wooster that seeks a challenge each year.One of the best things about college sports is the importance of the regular season and the non-conference schedule as every game matters for rankings, post season seeding and most importantly, player development. “We schedule tough non-conference opponents to challenge ourselves so that we find out areas that we need to improve upon. The most important thing we must do is make something positive happen as a result of the loss and become a better team,” said Moore. An early loss can be demoralizing for any team, especially when it is unexpected, but Coach Moore knows that the morale of the team is crucial for improving. “To bounce back, we must be highly motivated to redeem ourselves and have an intense, burning desire to compete harder than our opponents,” he said.
The Scots have plenty to be motivated about. Currently, their arch-rivals Wittenberg are the number three team in the country and the only North Coast Athletic Conference team in the top-25. There is still a long way until the first annual rivalry game in January, but for now, the team is focused on improving. “The most important thing we must do is make something positive happen as a result of the loss and become a better team,” said Moore.