The Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team used a school-record 21 three-pointers to cruise to a 107-83 victory over Allegheny Saturday afternoon at Branch Rickey Arena.
The Battling Bishops (9-6, 6-2) went 21-for-47 (52.4 percent) from behind the arc to stay tied for second place in the NCAC with Wooster, behind first-place Denison.
“That’s what we’ve done here for three years now … we don’t hesitate to shoot it when we’re open,” OWU coach Mike DeWitt said. “We have a team full of guys that can shoot it. Our thing is to be unselfish and find the open guy, and we were open and knocking them down (Saturday).”
The record performance topped the previous high of 19 that was set Jan. 6, 2001 at Wittenberg.
Will Orr, who knocked down four three-pointers last Jan. 30 to lead the team in tying the record against Hiram, connected on four more.
“The past three years, we’ve relied heavily on the three-point shot,” OWU junior guard Nate Axelrod said. “It hurt us early in the year when we were missing. (Saturday), everything seemed like it was going down and it really helped our confidence.”
Ben Simpson also hit four three-pointers and led the Bishops with 22 points and 12 rebounds to record his ninth double-double of the season.
“(Simpson) does everything – crashes the boards, finishes plays, hits threes – he’s an incredible defender,” Axelrod said. “We really appreciate what he’s done for us, especially the past three years. He’s definitely a great player.”
OWU did it within its offense. The Bishops turned in a season-high 25 assists on 33 made field goals, led by Axelrod with eight.
“As a point guard, the coaches always harp on, ‘take what the defense gives you.’ On Wednesday, the defense was giving me the shot and giving me layups,” Axelrod said. “Today, the defense was helping off. We moved the ball really well.”
Axelrod, coming off a career-high 39-point performance Wednesday night, sparked a 13-3 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 19-15 lead early in the first half.
“For him to have seven turnovers Wednesday night was uncharacteristic,” DeWitt said. “Obviously, the trade-off is when you get 39 points from him and he goes 15-for-21 from the field, I will accept (the turnovers).
“(Saturday), he was back to not turning the ball over – he was getting his teammates involved. (Allegheny was) trying to be very physical with him and he handled that really, really well.”
He assisted on threes by Simpson and Orr on consecutive possessions before knocking down one of his own.
“That’s what makes him so good is that one night he can go for 40 and the next night he only has 12 points, but has eight assists and plays good defense,” DeWitt said. “He just takes what the other team gives him.”
Then, Axelrod found Orr on three straight scores, two from deep and another on a back-door cut for a layup to give the Bishops a 29-24 lead with 8:48 left in the half.
DeWitt credited a change in defense that sparked his team.
“We started the game in a zone, but that wasn’t working,” DeWitt said. “The guys made a suggestion to go man and we went with it and our defense was much better as the half went along. I thought that’s what enabled us to get a run at the end of the half.”
Axelrod totaled 12 points and a game-high eight assists and Orr finished with 14 points.
Simpson and Seth Clark combined for 18 points to spark a 22-7 run over the final 5:26 of the half to blow the game open. Each hit a pair of treys during the rally that ended with OWU leading 56-36 at the break.
Simpson, Clark and Derrick Wyche each hit threes on consecutive possessions to push the lead as high as 29 with 18:33 left.
Clark finished with 13 points and Jeret Gerber knocked down three triples to finish with 15 points for the Bishops.
Jordan Rawls led the Gators (4-11, 1-7) with 21 points to go with five rebounds.
Evan Zabriski came off the bench to score all of his 19 points in the second half, which helped Allegheny get as close as 19 after he finished a steal with a dunk with 1:33 left. He led the Gators with six rebounds.
Billy Urso finished with 11 points, Connor Macomber added 10 and Jamison Nee had a team-high four assists to go with nine points for the Gators.
OWU hosts Wittenberg in NCAC action Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
The Ohio Wesleyan women’s basketball team used a 20-5 second quarter to build a big lead and cruised to a 76-62 victory over visiting Allegheny in NCAC play Saturday afternoon at Branch Rickey Arena.
“I’m really proud of the way we started the game,” OWU coach Stacey Ungashick Lobdell said. “I think we did a good job with defensive transition in the second quarter. But then if you go to the (fourth) quarter, we were not getting back in defensive transition – particularly on the three-point shooter.”
Led by Megan Kuether, who had 13 points and four assists, all five starters hit double-figures in scoring for the Battling Bishops (6-10, 3-4).
“That was actually one of our goals over break was to see more balance in scoring,” Ungashick Lobdell said. “Even if everybody gets 10 points – that’s the balance that we want and then focus on the rebounding, and I thought we did a good job of rebounding (Saturday).”
Nicole Popovich had 12 points and three steals, Taylor Dickson had 11 points and nine rebounds, Claire Sterling had 10 points and eight rebounds and Elea Karras added 10 points for OWU, which led by as much as 27 points in the third quarter.
The Gators (3-11, 1-6) hit five of their seven three-pointers in the fourth quarter as they cut the deficit to as little as 11 with 59 seconds left.
Emily Smith scored 14 points off the bench to lead Allegheny, Olivia Barkley scored 12 points and led with seven rebounds and Delaney Arbore added 10 points.
OWU continues NCAC play with a trip to Wittenberg Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.