College of Wooster prevails in another classic against archrival Wittenberg

·4 min read
The College of Wooster celebrates in the closing seconds of its win over Wittenberg.
The College of Wooster celebrates in the closing seconds of its win over Wittenberg.

WOOSTER — College of Wooster junior Turner Kurt picked off a three-quarters court inbounds pass that sailed long at the free-throw line with 2.8 seconds remaining, and the Fighting Scots took the latest men’s basketball thriller with arch nemesis Wittenberg 83-80 on Saturday evening at Timken Gymnasium.

Wooster (10-4, 6-1 North Coast Athletic Conference) upped its lead in the series between NCAA Div. III’s two winningest all-time programs to 63-60, and Saturday’s classic was the 49th Wooster-Wittenberg (5-7, 3-2) game decided by five or fewer points and the 16th in the last 38 meetings.

Wittenberg was within one at 75-74 and 77-76, but each time Wooster answered, and the Tigers did not hold a lead in the final 15:51.

Kurt got a piece of a jumper by Jeff Queenwith 3:29 to go that, had it gone down, would have put Wittenberg in the lead. Then at the other end, Kurt scored on a fast-break layup, which upped the lead to 77-74 at the 3:22 mark.

Later, Kurt had the lead-padding bucket again after Wittenberg pulled within 77-76, then he came up with another block, this time when 6-0 guard Trey Killens tried to force up a shot over the Scots’ 6-8 big.

Jamir Billings drives the lane against Wittenberg. Billings had 15 points and 10 assists, becoming the first Scot with three straight 10-assist games.
Jamir Billings drives the lane against Wittenberg. Billings had 15 points and 10 assists, becoming the first Scot with three straight 10-assist games.

Wooster first-year Jamir Billings led off the latest action-packed closing stretch in the rivalry with two free throws with 8.4 seconds to play to make it 83-77. Wittenberg’s Ridge Young’s 3-pointer with 3.2 seconds to go pulled the Tigers within three, and the Scots missed the front end of a one-and-one, setting the stage for Wittenberg’s game-tying try.

The Tigers looked to inbound the ball from the far baseline to near the 3-point arc, but Queen overthrew the intended area. Ironically, the game-clinching play was a repeat of the last time the archrivals met. In last season’s second exhibition game, Wooster’s Tayler McNeal intercepted an inbounds pass at the end of the Scots’ 81-78 win.

A 19-2 Wooster run spanning 4:41 of the second half was ultimately the difference, as the Scots overcame a 10-point second-half deficit. Four of Wooster’s season-high 15 steals came during that stretch. Offensively, the Scots shot 7 of 9 from the field, with senior Brandon Styers scoring the last six points of the run that gave Wooster a 57-50 lead at the 13:44 mark.

The first half featured seven lead changes and five ties, but Wittenberg led for the majority, spending 13:41 ahead on the scoreboard. The Tigers’ biggest lead (13) came on Levi Boettcher’s free throws with 1:25 to go in the opening half, and the Scots went on to trim the deficit to nine at halftime.

Billings headlined Wooster’s statistical performances, starting with his assists. The rookie passed out his 10th on sophomore Carter Warstler’s fast-break layup with 11:16 remaining to become the first player in program history with three games with at least 10 assists and the first to have back-to-back games with double digits.

With 4:00 to go, Billings picked Young’s pocket to tie Wooster’s single-game program record with seven steals, a total last logged by Antwyan Reynolds against Wabash College in 2001.

Sophomore Elijah Meredith had his way with Wittenberg’s bigs on the offensive end, scoring a season-high 25 points on 10-of-17 shooting. Billings backed that up with 15 in the scoring column, while Styers (14) and Kurt (10) rounded out the Scots in double figures.

Kurt’s five rebounds were tops on the team. Other key stats included senior Najee Hardaway’s six assists and Meredith’s three steals.

Wooster shot 49.3 percent (33 of 67) for the game, was 5 of 17 on 3-pointers, and went 12 of 14 at the line.

Young’s 27 points led all scorers. He shot 10 of 16 from the field, including 4 of 7 from deep. Boettcher joined Billings in the double-doubles department with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Wittenberg shot 47.4 percent (27 of 57), including 10 of 24 on 3-pointers, and 16 of 23 at the line.

Rebounds were even at 32 apiece.

Wooster plays at Denison (5-6, 4-1) at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: College of Wooster outlast Wittenberg in marquee rivalry matchup

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