Senior Sports Writer
The College of Wooster men’s basketball team, as of Monday Jan. 27, 2020, sits atop the upper half of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) standings with a record of 14-3 overall and 8-2 in the conference. The Scots faced the Denison Big Red on Wednesday, Jan. 22 in Granville. The Big Red came into the game at 4-11 and 1-7 in the conference. Any conference matchup has a chance of being a close game and this one sure was. The Big Red came out strong, opening up a 20-10 lead and shooting 8-11 from the floor, and were up 42-35 on the Scots at the half. Closer to the end of the half, Denison was up 33-20, which the Scots then trimmed down to only a seven-point deficit. Keonn Scott ’21 was a key contributor, as he finished with 24 points; however, he made all of Wooster’s first-half threepointers, all coming in the final three minutes.
In the second half, the Scots were down 60-46 with 14:30 remaining in the game. Dontae Williams ’21 who did not play as much in the first half due to fouls, was the difference maker during the Scots 22-8 run to narrow the margin. He scored 14 of the Scots’ 22 points during that timeframe. Scott made two free throws to make the score 63-62 in favor of Denison with 7:19 remaining. Scott then knocked down a jumper, assisted by Williams, to tie the game at 68. Denison scored four unanswered to go up 72-68 before Danyon Hempy ’20 knocked down a triple to make it 72-71. Wooster got the ball back to try and win the game but ended the game on a turnover, so the Big Red held on 72-71. Khaylen Mahdi ’22 described Denison as more urgent and said the Scots lacked that energy during the game. “Every team is talented and every team is hungry. This game was a wake up call for us. We are only as good as the amount of effort we put in and intensity we bring day-in and day-out,” said Mahdi.
The Scots came into their game against Hiram on Saturday Jan. 25, 2020, motivated to get back on track with a win. “We understood how important this game was. We planned to win.
Trusting in the work we put in leading up to the game, we were confident,” said Mahdi. The Scots played a strong first half as time went on and led 44- 35 on the Terriers at halftime. The Scots, toward the end of the half, went on an 11-2 run. Trenton Tipton ’20 drained a triple to start the run, which also marked a go-ahead bucket. J.G. Gillard ’22 was also very active during the end of the first half particularly as he accounted for some of the offense as well as defense. He was a spark off the bench. This carried over to the second half. Mahdi attested to Najee Hardaway ’22’s effort as well as Gillard’s effort: “Those two guys really stepped up and I believe that they were a big reason as to why we brought that game home. The big plays that they made really illustrate how special this group of guys is. At any point in time, a different guy can step up to the plate and perform well.”
The Scots went up 57-43 in the second half with 14:44 remaining. Soon after, the Scots went on another run, which included a Scott triple, an offensive rebound and put-back by Tipton and another steal by him. Tipton had a game-high three steals to add to the strong defensive effort the Scots were playing with. The Scots went on to win by a final score of 98- 76.
Wooster ended up shooting 56.9 percent from the floor, which marked the fifth time in the last six games that the Scots shot that high of a percentage or better. The Scots were 13-28 from deep and 11-of-15 from the free-throw line. In comparison, Hiram was 48.4 percent from the floor and 7-of-20 from threepoint range, while being 9-of-16 from the line. When asked about the future of the team and the season, Mahdi summed it up in just two sentences. “We are all determined workers and very talented. Moving forward I’m extremely excited to see what we can do,” he remarked.
The Scots will take on the Little Giants of Wabash College tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 1 in Crawfordsville, Ind.