Tanner Kurt scores 31 as College of Wooster tops UC Santa Cruz

·4 min read
The College of Wooster logo
The College of Wooster logo

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — First-year Jamir Billings dished out 10 assists – a first for a College of Wooster men’s basketball player since 2002 – and junior Turner Kurt had an afternoon with 31 points during the Fighting Scots’ 80-71 win over University of California Santa Cruz on Saturday at Kaiser Permanente Arena.

Wooster (7-1) closed out UC Santa Cruz (2-9) with a 15-6 run over the final 6:15. Billings hit a free throw to start the stretch, and the rookie point guard dropped 17 of his 21 points in the second half, including seven during the 15-6 ending. A steal at the 3:20 mark by Kurt helped put the game out of reach. Next, Billings found Kurt on an inbounds play with 3:04 to go and the shot clock winding down. That was not an issue for Kurt, who confidently knocked down the midrange jumper that made it a 72-65 game. Billings’ helper on the play marked his 10th, making him the first Scot to have double-digit assists in a game since Wooster legend Antwyan Reynolds passed out 11 against Kenyon College on February 2, 2002.

Later, Billings’ floater went down after an offensive rebound, Kurt tapped out an offensive rebound that led to two Billings free throws, and senior Najee Hardaway’s two charity points made it an 80-71 game in the closing seconds.

Earlier in the second half, Wooster took its first lead since the score was 4-0 at 62-61. Sophomore Nick Everett hit a free throw at the 7:23 mark, but the lead did not stick, with Avri Finch scoring next for the hosts. Everett answered right back with a roll to the hoop, earning a three-point play chance in the process. Everett’s free throw made it 65-63, Wooster, before Finch tied the game up one last time at 65 all.

Wooster, which trailed by as many as 15 in the first half, started to rally around Kurt late in the stanza. The Scots’ forward had a personal 7-0 run over just 59 seconds. Kurt earned three the old-fashion way at the 4:47 mark, then bullied his way inside against the Banana Slugs, and even had a block on the defensive end. His last bucket pulled Wooster within 37-29 at the 3:48 mark.

Senior Brandon Styers, this week’s North Coast Athletic Conference Athlete of the Week, sparked the Scots down the stretch, scoring Wooster’s final six points of the half. The final two came on a buzzer-beater at the rim, which pulled Wooster within 41-35 at the half.

UC Santa Cruz started 9-of-13 from the floor en route to opening up the first-half lead. The Banana Slugs made six straight field goals at one point, including three by Tyler Kessinger, who dropped in 13 points in the opening 20 minutes of play.

Billings finished a rebound shy of a triple-double, while Kurt matched the Scots’ rookie for the team lead in boards at nine. Kurt went 14-of-17 from the field and was nearly automatic from inside the arc at 13-of-14 on the day. Billings went 8-of-12 from the floor and finished with four steals.

Wooster shot 49.2 percent (29-of-59) for the game, went 22-of-31 (71.0 percent) at the line, and played turnover-free basketball for the final 13:49.

Finch’s 17 points were the team high. Kessinger followed with 15 points and six assists, but had just two second-half points.

UC Santa Cruz shot 46.9 percent (30-of-64) for the game, was 5-of-21 (23.8 percent) on three-pointers, and passed out assists on 24 of 30 field goals.

Worth nothing, Wooster won despite not making a three-pointer in the game. Wooster last had zero triples in the 2015 NCAC Tournament championship game against DePauw University.

Wooster wraps up its trip against Lewis & Clark College (5-4). Tipoff from Kaiser Permanente Arena is slated for 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT on Sunday, December 19.

This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Tanner Kurt's 31 points lead Wooster to win over UC Santa Cruz

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