Langston Hood, Senior Sports Writer
The Fighting Scots’ men’s basketball team welcomed the DePauw Tigers into Timken Gymnasium on Saturday, Jan. 21, for a heated conference battle. The Tigers were navigating the NCAC well, aside from losses at the hands of Wooster in their first meeting and a 10-point defeat from their Tiger counterparts, Wittenberg. DePauw defeated the rest of their NCAC opponents until a loss against Ohio Wesleyan, which was tied with Wooster for first in the conference headed into this week. Wooster has used their loss against Wabash to propel themselves into a three-game winning streak headed into Saturday’s match-up. That being said, this game had the makings of the hot-tempered, high-energy games that characterize the conference season.
Wooster’s first possession displayed one theme that would remain constant throughout the afternoon, the hot hand of Elijah Meredith ’24, who canned a three-pointer right off the bat, the first of many. DePauw’s coaching staff and players walked into Timken with every intent of proving their worth. This was clear from the outset, as the energy from the bench was entirely undeniable. The game would go back and forth for the starting minutes of the first half, as neither team gained a substantial lead until first-year Isaac Roeder hit a jump shot to put the Scots up eight at about the halfway mark of the first half. This would be the largest lead for the Scots until later in the second half, as the Tigers would battle back until another Meredith three stretched the Scots lead from three to six. Wooster stalwarts Carter Warstler ’24 and Najee Hardaway ’22 would add a layup and a three to give the Scots a 33-26 lead headed into the break.
The halftime show featured Wooster High’s wheelchair basketball dominating a group of helpless College of Wooster student athletes who unknowingly signed up for their own slaughter at the hands of Ohio’s premier wheelchair basketball unit. Wooster has won all four Ohio wheelchair basketball state championships, while amassing a record of 74-1 and even sending players into the intercollegiate ranks.
After the break, Wooster would turn the heat up a notch and stretch their lead to 11 thanks to a three-pointer from Jamir Billings ’25. A DePauw free throw would do little to stop the downpour as Billings came back down the court and hit another three. The sequence would continue with a Warstler block and another Meredith three-pointer to give the Scots a 14-point lead with 14:34 to go in the second half.
In concert with the offensive downpour, Brennan South ’24 preached the importance of the Scot’s defensive energy saying, “the most pivotal part to our success in Saturday’s game was the defensive intensity that we played with to start the second half. We were able to make some halftime adjustments to slow down their offense to start the second half and took advantage of that with some easy offense on the other end of the court for us. This let us extend our lead and push the game out of reach.”
The shots kept falling as Hardaway left his mark on the game with two consecutive layups before Meredith splashed in two more three-pointers to give the Scots a 22-point lead with 11 minutes to play. DePauw would go on an 11-point run of their own to bring themselves within 11 points of the Scots, but the closest they would make it would be seven points. The clock hit zeroes and Wooster emerged victorious 80-73.
Saturday’s box score shows the game to be closer than it really was, as Wooster’s run in the second half would prove to be fatal for the Tigers as they could not recover. Meredith, Hardaway and Billings carried the load for the Scots, scoring 21, 16 and 10 points respectively, but the victory was a team effort. South, Roeder and Warstler all contributed key minutes to give the Scots a nine-point advantage in bench points. Aside from this, much of the box score would equate to an even game with the Tigers claiming a narrow advantage in rebounding, while turnovers and field goal percentage were relatively even. That being said, Wooster was especially advantageous from three-point territory, shooting 10 more three-pointers and making six more than their opponents.
The true test for Wooster will be Wednesday’s game against Ohio Wesleyan, which will leave one team with sole possession of first place and the other with nothing but disappointment and regret. With only seven games remaining, the rubber is meeting the road and Wooster’s true potential is yet to be seen in this lengthy basketball season.
After Wednesday’s battle with OWU and a pair of away games, Wooster’s next home game will be against the Wittenberg Tigers on Saturday, Feb. 4 at 6:00 PM.