Brian Lester, NCAA.com

Wooster went on the road to play Allegheny a few weeks ago with the No. 1 ranking resting on its shoulders.

The Fighting Scots had just risen to the top spot in the country and learned how tough it can be to play with a target on their backs. 

The Gators pushed Wooster to the brink of an upset until Ian Franks drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer, propelling the Fighting Scots to a 76-73 win at the David V. Wise Center in Meadville, Pa.

Franks finished with 19 points in the Dec. 8 victory. Justin Hallowell pumped in 18, highlighting his effort with four 3-pointers.

“The No. 1 ranking motivates your opponent,” Wooster head coach Steve Moore said. “They definitely came out ready to play. It took everything we had to get out of there with a win.”

Wooster followed up the heart-stopping win with a pair of dominating performances. It topped Ohio Wesleyan 68-42 (Dec. 11) and dropped Anderson 89-48 (Dec. 20) to cap its pre-Christmas slate.

Defense has played a crucial role in the success of the Fighting Scots (9-0, 4-0 NCAC).

They have held seven opponents to 60 points or less and are allowing teams to shoot just 34.5 percent from the field against them.

And don’t even think about having a great deal of luck hitting 3-pointers against Wooster. Opponents are shooting 29.3 percent from long range.

“Our experience has been the key,” Moore said. “We have a lot of guys who understand our defensive system. They play very well together.”

Moore has never had a losing season at Wooster. And while his team is on track for its 19th NCAA tourney berth under his direction, there is room for improvement.

“We’ve had stretches where we’ve turned the ball over too much,” Moore said. “We need to be more consistent taking care of the basketball.”

Need To Know

Findlay
Kahlig

Greg Kahlig is in a zone for the University of Findlay. The freshman forward has led the team in scoring in the last three games as the Oilers went into the holiday break with a 10-0 record. Kahlig exploded for a career-high 28 points in a 93-85 overtime road win against Tiffin on Dec. 16. Two days later, he poured in 22 in a 91-72 win against Ohio Dominican in his first career start. Kahlig has scored a combined 65 points in his last three outings and is averaging 11.7 points per game on the season.

Butler capped a perfect Christmas week in Hawaii by winning the Diamond Head Classic. The Bulldogs topped Washington State 84-68 in the championship game behind 14 points and 11 rebounds from Matt Howard. Howard had his fifth double-double in the win and was named the tournament MVP. Howard averaged 18.7 points per outing in three games for a Butler team that has won its last five games.

Baylor has lost three games since rising to No. 9 in the nation earlier this month, which was its highest ranking in school history. Its tough luck continued in Hawaii. The Bears, who fell to No. 15 before heading out to the Diamond Head Classic, lost twice in the tournament. Baylor fell 68-61 to Florida State in the consolation game despite 23 points from LaceDarius Dunn. Quincy Acy added 16 points for Baylor, which fell to 8-3 on the year.

St. Thomas senior guard Tyler Nicolai is a preseason Division III All-American candidate and lived up to his billing in a thrilling top-10 showdown against defending national champion Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Dec. 22. Nicolai scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half as the seventh-ranked Tommies rallied for a 61-54 home win against the fourth-ranked Pointers in front of a crowd of 1,200. It was the sixth time this season that St. Thomas has won despite trailing in the second half.

Quick Hits

No. 9 Missouri won the Braggin’ Rights game against Illinois for the second consecutive year, knocking off the 21st-ranked Illini 75-64 in St. Louis. … Augusta State, currently the No. 5 team in the nation in Division II, has been in the poll for a school-record 54 consecutive weeks dating back to the 2006-07 campaign and has been a top-10 team in 34 of the last 38 polls. … Washington State’s Klay Thomson clicked for 31 points and was the only player on his team in double figures in the Cougars’ 84-68 loss to Butler in the championship game of the Diamond Head Classic. … Whitworth is on a roll as the sixth-ranked Pirates are unbeaten through nine games and need four more wins to tie the school record for best start to a season. … Five teams from the Midwest Region, one of the toughest regions in Division II, are ranked in the Top 10, including Bellarmine at No. 1, Findlay at No. 2 and Hillsdale at No. 7. … Despite not having their top scorer Steve Gray who has been out due to back spasms, the Bulldogs topped the Musketeers as Robert Scarce dropped in 22 points in the win at the McCarthey Athletic Center.