Sponsler's game-high 20 points propel Wabash past eighth-ranked Wooster
CRAWFORDSVILLE, Ind. -- The Little Giants' lock-down defense stifled No. 8 Wooster on Saturday in a 55-48 victory.
“The win definitely means a lot for us because we were able to build on the win against DePauw,” head coach Antoine Carpenter said. “Also, our younger guys continued to get more confident and play better.”
Wooster tested Wabash's confidence early as the Scots jumped out to a 15-2 lead.
“They did good job starting off quick and we missed some shots,” Carpenter said. “I reminded our guys of the DePauw game when we were down 14-4. We just needed to keep competing.”
Carpenter and his staff switched defenses after the early Wooster lead. The move to an aggressive 2-3 zone defense stymied Wooster for much of the game.
“Wooster is very athletic and each player can get to the rim so we tried to slow them down a little bit and control the tempo,” Carpenter said.
“The game plan was to keep them under 50 shots so if they made one, we'd walk it up the court and if they missed we tried to push it,” guard Houston Hodges added. “They usually get up a lot of shots per game so the zone made some guys get impatient and do things they're not use to doing and that led to some of the turnovers.”
The Wabash defense forced 15 turnovers on the afternoon. The Scots were held to 31.9 percent shooting for the game and just 25.9 percent in the second half.
Wooster's backcourt combo of Doug Thorpe and Xavier Brown came in averaging a combined 20 points per game, but were held to 13 total points on 4 of 21 shooting.
After Wooster amassed the 15-2 lead, Wabash responded with an 11-1 run capped by an Andy Walsh 3-pointer. Walsh's three pulled the Little Giants to within three, but the Scots separated themselves and held a 27-17 halftime advantage.
Wabash closed the gap with a 9-0 run halfway through the second period to pull within one 35-34. Wooster again extended the lead — this time to six. Walsh converted on a four-point play to slice the Wooster lead to 42-40 at the 6:41 mark.
Two minutes later, Hodges found fellow guard Ross Sponsler spotting up for a three on the wing. Sponsler connected and gave Wabash its first lead of the game at 45-44.
Sponsler led all scorers with 20 and made seven of his eight free throw attempts.
Hodges' two free throws pushed the Little Giant lead to 50-45 with 41 seconds remaining.
Wooster responded when forward Jalen Goodwin converted on a three-point play to pull Wooster to within three with 16 seconds left. However, Sponsler stepped up to the free-throw line and iced the game.
Wooster center Jake Mays led the team in scoring with 10 points—he was the only player to reach double figures on the Wooster side.
Hodges scored six points for Wabash and dished out four assists. Daniel Purvlicis and Walsh each scored seven points.