Bishops outlast Big Red 83-75.

By Gary Henery

January 26, 2014

It was another down-to-the-wire thriller for the Battling Bishops as 19th-ranked Ohio Wesleyan used a strong finish to close out Denison 83-75 in men’s North Coast Athletic Conference basketball action in front of gathering of 807 cheering fans Saturday afternoon at Branch Rickey Arena.

After trailing the Big Red through much of the first half, going into the locker room down by 6, 42-36, the Bishops unleashed a huge run over the final 14:15 of the game to pull away from a 47-47 tie and extend their current winning streak to five games.

“We challenged our guys at halftime to go back out and step up their game. We picked up our defense at the end of the first half and carried that momentum into the second half.” OWU head coach Mike DeWitt said. “It was a very physical game for both teams the way the game was being called. The team that could adjust would come away with the win.”

After catching Denison at 47-all on senior guard Taylor Rieger’s basket at the 14:15 mark of the second half, Ohio Wesleyan (14-3, 8-2 NCAC) sophomore post Claude Gray and senior wing Dre White followed with layins for to spark a 15-4 run that saw freshman guards Seth Clark and Jon Griggs bury threes around a rebound bucket by senior post Reuel Rogers to put the Bishops up by 11 at 62-51 with 8:56 to play.

Denison (8-9, 4-6 NCAC) wasn’t about to go quietly. The Big Red closed to within six of the lead at 68-62 with the help of junior wing Brad Wollard, who counted a 3-point play, and senior wing Alex Longi’s layin from the paint and a pair of free throws with 5:43 to play.

That’s when Dre White stepped up his game, putting 9 points in the book in just under a two-minute span to put Ohio Wesleyan up by 11 at 75-64 with 3:14 left in the game. Grey knocked down his fourth trey for a 79-70 advantage with 1:40 left.

“Dre came up big for us again and Claude hit a big three with the outcome on the line,” DeWitt noted.

Coach Bob Ghiloni’s Big Red pulled to within five of the lead at 80-75 on a Longi jumper with 42 seconds remaining, but that was as close as Denison would come the rest of the way.

Denison, thanks to hitting eight of 12 threes in the first half, held an 11-point, 38-27 lead on a trey by junior guard Robby Weingart with 4:38 left in the first half.

“They came out hitting the 3-point shot,”DeWitt said. “We turned up our defense and held them to three threes by taking away the open shot in the second half and came away with the win.”

All five starters, led by Gray’s 22 points, scored in double figures for the Bishops. White followed with 20 to go with 5 assists, Reiger with 16 and Clark and Rogers with 11 points apiece. Longi led the Big Red with 18 points and 5 assists with freshman guard David Meurer following with 16.

Ohio Wesleyan shot 50 percent (29-for-58) for the game. The Bishops hit on 45 percent (9 of 20) of their 3-point tries. They made 16 of 28 (57.1 percent) of their free throws. Denison was 26-for-51 (51 percent) from the field, 11-for-20 from beyond the arc (55 percent) and 12-for-14 at the line (85.7 percent).

The Big Red, led by Wollard’s 9 boards, held a 31-30 edge in rebounds. Rogers pulled down a game-high 11 for the Bishops to go with 6 blocked shots. In turnovers, OWU forced 17 Denison turnovers, scoring 19 points off the Big Red mistakes. The Bishops committed only 10 turnovers, losing 10 points to Denison.

Ohio Wesleyan, which defeated the Big Red 65-63 earlier this season in Granville, leads the all-time series 120-65.

The Bishops return to action Wednesday, traveling to Wooster for an 8 p.m. NCAC matchup with the host Scots. Wooster, after a 78-74 loss to DePauw Saturday, holds a one-game lead over OWU (14-3, 8-2 NCAC), Wittenberg (14-3, 8-2 NCAC) and DePauw (13-4, 8-2 NCAC) in the conference.