Wooster Athletics

WOOSTER, Ohio – No. 15 ranked Wabash's Wes Smith stole the ball on the final possession of overtime, denying No. 1 Wooster a chance at a game-winning shot and putting an end to the Fighting Scots' season-opening 20-game winning streak. The Little Giants prevailed 69-68 during a back-and-forth affair at Timken Gymnasium.

The first game between the two North Coast Athletic Conference schools also came down to the last play, with Smith just missing a 3-pointer at the buzzer, which allowed Wooster to hang on for a 67-65 win Jan. 8. It was much of the same on Saturday.

Derek Bailey scored the first five points of the extra session, posting a lay-up on the initial possession and a 3-pointer to put Wabash (17-4, 9-4 NCAC) up 69-64. Bryan Wickliffe countered for the Scots (20-1, 11-1 NCAC) by making two free throws at the 2:20 mark and a close-range jumper on their next possession to pull within one.

After the Little Giants worked the clock down, Justin Warnes came up with a steal with just over a minute to go, giving Wooster a chance to take the lead. Wickliffe, who matched a career high with 25 points, attempted an open mid-range jumper from the left wing that was off the mark and rebounded by Smith.

Again, Wabash used almost all of the shot clock before getting off an attempt that grazed off the rim and into the hands of Ian Franks with about 10 seconds remaining. Franks dribbled up court, but was picked by Smith near the right sideline, marking the Scots' season-high 20th turnover and the conclusion of their best start in team history.

Wooster also had the final possession of regulation. After Smith tied it at 64 by sinking two free throws with 10.1 seconds on the clock, the Scots were only able to get off an off-balance shot attempt that fell short.

Overall, the contest featured 13 lead changes and six ties. Neither team went ahead by more than five during the first half, which saw Wooster own a 34-31 advantage at the break.

Wabash's Aaron Zinnerman made three 3-pointers within the first five minutes of the second half and Bailey added an old-fashioned three-point play, as the visitors gained a six-point margin (45-39). The Little Giants continued to hold the lead, later expanding it to seven a couple of times (60-53 and 62-55).

Then the Scots made their move.

Franks made two free throws, next assisted Justin Hallowell on a fast-break lay-up to quickly make it a one-possession game at 62-59 with three minutes to play.

Neither team scored again until Wickliffe got to the foul line at the 1:38 mark, making both to trim the margin to one. Following a defensive stop, Franks got a jumper to drop with the ball bouncing off the rim three times before going through the net for Wooster's first lead, 63-62, since early in the half.

A timeout was called with 57.8 seconds left in regulation and Smith, well-defended by Warnes, eventually took a shot from just beyond the right elbow that missed and was rebounded by Wickliffe, who was immediately fouled at the 29.8 mark. Wickliffe's first free throw rimmed out and the second was true for a two-point advantage. Wabash extended it to overtime when Smith got to the line on the ensuing possession.

The Scots made 54.0 percent of their shots from the field (27 for 50), compared to 43.1 percent (25 for 58) for the Little Giants, and outrebounded them 31-24, but were done in by the 20 turnovers.

Wickliffe's second career 25-point game came on 9 of 13 field goals and 7 of 8 free throws. Franks went for 15 points, a game-high nine rebounds and four assists, while Hallowell chipped in an 12 points in the scorebook.

Also noteworthy, Nathan Balch became the 36th player in team history to score 1,000 career points on a put-back of an offensive rebound during the second half. A three-year player for Wooster, he now has 1,002 points.

Zinnernan paced Wabash in the scoring department with 17, including 4-of-8 3-pointers, while Smith posted a stat line of 11 points, six rebounds, five assists, and five steals.