The Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team can put points up in bunches. But, its defense starred in Saturday’s NCAC victory over Oberlin.
The Bishops held visiting Oberlin to just four points in the final 9:47 in a 72-58 victory at Branch Rickey Arena.
“We obviously did a better job as the game went along of guarding their patterns and getting to their three-point shooters,” Bishops coach Mike DeWitt said. “We made a special emphasis to try to get some things done defensively because we weren’t scoring as much as we would like.”
Fresh off joining the OWU 1,000-point club, senior post Ben Simpson turned in his second straight double-double performance and fourth of the season with a 15-point, 10-rebound effort – both game-highs.
“My dad always showed me Dennis Rodman highlights – he was a big Dennis Rodman fan and that’s where it came from,” said Simpson, who’s from Lake Bluff, IL.
Simpson averaged a double-double for the Bishops last season and is four-tenths of a rebound away from doing it again this year.
“He’s not big, he’s not physical … he just has a great knack for finding the ball – knowing where the ball is going to come off the rim and the backboard – and he goes and gets it. He gets two hands on it and he’s strong enough to secure it.”
OWU held Oberlin, second in the NCAC in three-pointers attempted and third in made threes, to just five for the game. The Bishops lead the league in both categories.
“Communication is so key – especially with the offense (Oberlin runs),” Simpson said. “Like coach said, we’ve got to be able to trust each other and help the helper. Everybody stepped up on the defensive end and that’s what won us the game.”
OWU was struggling to find offense before Eugene Coleman broke the seal on an almost four-minute drought in the second half with a basket underneath off a feed from Erick Bryant with 6:24 left.
Seth Clark and Will Orr knocked down threes on consecutive possessions to give the Bishops (5-3, 3-0) a 70-56 lead with 2:56 left, all but ending any suspense.
“Over the past two or three years we have been a very explosive team offensively,” DeWitt said. “Honestly, we’re trying to find that on a consistent basis right now. But, in spurts, we can do that and because we were getting defensive stops it was just a matter of time before we got some open looks.”
Simpson scored 11 points and grabbed eight boards in the first half alone. Seth Clark knocked down a three-pointer with 6 seconds left to give OWU a 42-31 lead at the break.
Clark hit four of OWU’s 11 three-pointers and Will Orr knocked down three as the Bishops shot 45.8 percent from deep.
“That’s kind of our method of operation – whether it’s right or wrong – that’s how we’re going to play,” DeWitt said. “Let our shooters shoot and if we’re making them, we’re really tough to beat.”
Andre Campbell knocked down a jumper and then hit one of two at the line on the next possession to get the Yeomen (1-7, 0-3) within five points with 14:45 left, but that’s as close as it would get.
Clark finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals, Nate Axelrod had 14 points and five assists and Orr added nine points and three rebounds for the Bishops.
“Seth Clark has been great at opening the floor for us,” DeWitt said. “Seth’s been tremendous on both sides of the floor – I can’t say enough about what he’s done.”
Nathan Cohen led the Yeomen with 13 points and Campbell added 11 and six rebounds as Oberlin dropped its sixth straight.
OWU continues NCAC play at home against Kenyon Saturday at 3 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.