Eliot Barrengos, Contributing Writer
The Wooster Scots men’s basketball team lost last Saturday, Jan 28 to the Oberlin Yeomen ending a five-game win streak by the Scots, and serving up Wooster’s first loss in nearly three weeks. The Scots, who have historically dominated Oberlin, never found their mojo on Saturday, and struggled maintaining possession and finding their shooting rhythm. The loss was Wooster’s first against their rival Oberlin in 60 contests and ended a Wooster winning streak that dated back to Feb. 7, 1988.
After trading blows throughout the first half of action, the Scots, who came out of half-time trailing 39-25, went to work quickly trying to erase the 14-point Oberlin lead. Within five minutes, the Scots had cut the deficit and trailed only 43-40. Oberlin’s Andrew Gannon ’25 pulled a fast break layup putting the Yeomen on a run, and the Scots found themselves back down 51-45 with 12 minutes and change left to work with. Wooster’s 10-3 run put them within striking distance of the lead and the Scots pulled ahead, briefly, when junior forward Elijah Meridith ’24 sank a three-pointer with seven and half minutes remaining on the clock, delivering Wooster a momentary lead of 55-54. On the very next possession, Oberlin would sink the Scots when Dimitrije Radusinovic ’24 hit his own field goal to put Oberlin up for good.
The Scots made one last push in the final minute of play to even the affair, when guard Jamir Billings ’25 made a dramatic three-pointer of his own to put Wooster within reach of the lead again with just 55 seconds remaining on the clock. With the Scots trailing by just two points and only 36 seconds to work with, guard Najee Hardaway ’22 did everything in his power to stop Gannon from extending the Oberlin advantage, but it proved too much, and Oberlin pulled ahead by four on a 10-footer from the Oberlin guard.
Wooster had strong success getting to the free-throw line all day Saturday, which head coach Doug Cline commented on saying, “we got the ball inside well in the second half, which resulted in us getting to the free-throw line…that, along with better defense in the second half gave us a chance to win the game at the end.” Hoping to flip the result the Scots made one final push in the final 20 seconds of play, Hardaway found Meridith following an offensive rebound, and Meredith was able to get the Scots back within two through a short jumper with 19 seconds remaining. The Scots nearly forced an Oberlin turnover, but failed to do so successfully as both teams sent players to the free throw line within the final seconds of play. Meredith had a chance to tie the score at the buzzer but missed the mark, and Wooster’s defeat was final. Despite a tenacious effort, the Scots fell short by a final score of 71-68.
Among Saturday’s standout performers were forward Nick Everett ’25, who shined in the second half. Going 8-10 at the free throw line and using his physical game to give Wooster automatic free throws in the final twelve and a half minutes of play, as well as incredible defense in the last, decisive minutes. Looking at the schedule ahead, the Scots will have to pick themselves back up, as they finish out their slate with five conference games before playoff basketball gets underway. When asked about whether Saturday’s loss would affect the positive momentum that the Scots have built, Cline answered “College basketball is a grind. A very long season. You have to learn from a loss and move on. We have [also] had some really good wins this year.” He continued, saying “you have to give Oberlin credit, they played really well. [But] [o]ur guys are still very excited about the last three weeks of the season.”
Wooster, at the time of this writing, sits at the top of NCAC with a 9-2 conference record and a chance to make a deep playoff run. Coach Cline commented on what the Scots need to emphasize in their play over the next few weeks to be ready for a championship run: “We need to become a more efficient offense and play to our strengths. We need to have better-shot selection and not turn the ball over as much.” Coach Cline went on to reiterate the team mindset before this pivotal portion of their schedule. “We have five games to go and are tied for first place [overall record] in the NCAC. We have to put the disappointment of Saturday behind us and move on…We have to take it one game at a time.”
The NCAC standings have Wooster in first place with a 9-2 record and a .818 in conference play but tied with Wabash in overall record at 15-4. Not entirely sure how to make that clear was hoping y’all could help with that.