CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. — Aaron Zinnerman and Brian Shelbourne each scored career highs to lead No. 25 Wabash to an 8-0 start with a 72-58 victory against fifth-ranked Wooster Saturday afternoon.
Zinnerman scored 25 points, shooting 8-of-18 from the field and 9-of-9 from the free throw stripe. Shelbourne drilled two early three-point shots on the way to an 18-point effort on 5-of-9 shooting while hitting all six free throw attempts.
The victory was just the sixth by Wabash in 35 games between the two teams, but is the second in row for Little Giants. Wabash won 69-68 in overtime at Wooster late last season.
The Little Giants, ranked 25th in the latest D3hoops.com poll, only trailed Wooster (5-2, 1-2 NCAC) once in the ball game. The Scots took a 1-0 lead in the first two minutes of the contest on a free throw by Josh Claytor. Wabash led by as many as 14 points in the first half before Wooster closed to 33-25 at halftime.
The Scots outscored Wabash 10-2 in the opening minutes of the second half to tie the game at 35-35, forcing Wabash head coach Antoine Carpenter to call a timeout. Carpenter got his players refocused, as the Little Giants scored the next seven points to move in front 42-35 on a driving layup by Shelbourne. Wooster continued to pound the ball inside to Jake Mays and Josh Claytor in an attempt to keep within striking distance. Claytor tied for team-high scoring honors for Wooster with 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting, while Mays poured in eight points hitting 4-of-7 shot attempts.
A basket by Mays trimmed the Wabash lead to three points with 12:15 left to play before the Little Giants started lighting up from outside. Freshman Houston Hodges, playing in his first game since the end of the Wabash football season where he started at cornerback, drilled a three-point basket to stretch the lead to six points. Jordan Surenkamp answered a Claytor layup with another trey for a 48-41 lead with 10:44 remaining in the contest.
After a Pete Nicksic layup, Zinnerman scored on a drive and a pull-up jumper to stretch the lead to 56-44. Wooster got as close as nine points, but a driving layup and free throw on a three-point play by Shelbourne with a 3:45 had Wabash in front by 12.
Xavier Brown, who also finished with 17 points for the Scots, added his own basket and free throw for a three-point play with 2:26 remaining to get Wooster to within nine, but a full court pass by Hodges to Bailey for an easy layup beat the Scots’ press defense, putting the lead to double digits for the final time.
Wabash was 22-of-54 from the field for 40 percent, while Wooster hit 24-of-58 attempts for 41.4 percent. The Little Giants connected on 6-of-18 long-range shots, holding Wooster to just 2-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. Wooster also shot just 8-of-13 from the free throw line for 61.5 percent, while Wabash was 22-of-25 for 88 percent.
Both teams grabbed 35 rebounds, with Zinnerman leading Wabash with eight rebounds. Justin Hallowell grabbed eight boards for Wooster. The Little Giants forced 14 Wooster turnovers, while Wabash had 10 miscues. The Little Giants handed out 11 assists, with Derek Bailey, Shelbourne, and Hodges finishing with two apiece.
Wabash (8-0, 2-0 NCAC) remains atop the conference standings, along with Ohio Wesleyan (8-1, 3-0 NCAC) and Wittenberg (4-2, 3-0 NCAC). Wittenberg defeated Wooster 59-58 on Wednesday night, giving the Scots back-to-back losses for the first time since 1996.
The Little Giants are off next week for finals before competing in the Don Lane Classic at Transylvania University December 20-21. Wabash will play Baldwin-Wallace in the first game on Tuesday. The Little Giants’ Wednesday opponent — either Transylvania or Hendrix — will be annouced later this week.