Technical fouls are bad, right? That wasn’t the case for senior post Ben Simpson.
His technical foul in the second half served as motivation during a 9-1 rally where the Ohio Wesleyan men’s basketball team took control on its way to an 82-77 victory over Denison Wednesday at Branch Rickey Arena in Delaware.
“(It’s a rallying point) especially when you think it’s unjustified … and we felt it was,” OWU coach Mike DeWitt said. “It’s a tough call for the official, but he made it. Our bench got fired up and he got fired up.”
It’s crowded at the top of the league standings with OWU, Denison and Wooster, after its 69-68 win at Oberlin, all tied for first place after Wednesday night’s action.
“We worked, as a team, so hard,” Simpson said. “Individually, we all got better to get to the point where we are now. We still feel like we can get better … there’s a lot of season left and we’re excited for it.”
The Battling Bishops (14-6, 11-2) were tied with Wooster in second place until Denison dropped its first league game Saturday at Wittenberg.
“When Denison lost last Saturday, we told our guys we were in control of our destiny at this point,” DeWitt said. “We needed some help and when Wittenberg beat Denison, that helped us.”
Things will clear up a little more Saturday when Wooster visits Denison at 3 p.m.
“We were excited coming into the game that if we could win out, we could win at least a share of the conference championship. So, our guys were pretty highly motivated,” DeWitt said. “With five games left, it’s a wide-open race between three teams.”
Wednesday night, however, OWU and Denison couldn’t separate from each other. The lead changed 11 times and tied another six in the second half until Grant Gossard found Simpson to give OWU a 66-64 lead with 5:43 left on a layup.
“I felt like we were playing with a lot of effort … we were playing good defensively,” DeWitt said. “We were getting open shots, we just weren’t making them. If we could just maintain our defensive intensity, the shots would come.”
Simpson rebounded Jett Speelman’s missed three-pointer and, after a timeout, drove the lane and finished with a thunderous slam.
Then, he was T’d up. He responded by waiving his hands up and down to fire up the crowd.
“At first I was surprised I got T’d up because I didn’t think I hung on the rim,” Simpson said. “I was told at the end of the game that it was because I was screaming. Once I got T’d up, I couldn’t care less – I was just hyped.”
After Denison’s Andrew Castagnetti hit one of two at the line, Simpson came back and drained a three-pointer from the right wing to push the lead to six.
“Ben made a nice move on a post move (on the previous possession) and then made a three and that gave us a lot of motivation,” DeWitt said.
Nate Axelrod followed with a drive and score to push OWU’s lead to 73-65 with 2:30 left.
Axelrod finished with a game-high 28 points, Simpson had 24 and 11 rebounds and Will Orr added 10 off the bench.
Denison controlled most of the first half, building a six-point lead on four different occasions, and led 38-37 at the break.
The Big Red (17-3, 11-2) led for all but 44 seconds of the opening half. OWU grabbed the lead twice in the last six minutes, but Matthew Bauer responded with a pair of three-pointers in both instances on the next possession.
Bauer led Denison with 17 points and 12 rebounds, David Meurer added 12 points and Speelman chipped in 10 points and 11 boards.
Freshman Elea Karras went off for six three-pointers – one shy of the school record – to lead Ohio Wesleyan to a 72-65 NCAC victory over visiting Denison Wednesday night.
“We did a really great job of finding Elea and Elea did a great job of knocking down shots,” OWU coach Stacey Ungashick Lobdell said.
Karras knocked down a pair of threes during a 9-0 run in the first quarter. The first gave the Battling Bishops (8-12, 5-6) the lead and the second capped the run.
Karras knocked down three more in a 14-2 run in the third quarter that pushed the lead to 16, OWU’s largest of the game.
“That says a lot for her being a freshman,” Ungashick Lobdell said. “The freshmen really have worked extra time in the gym and have bought in to understanding their role and really started believing in each other.”
OWU’s Megan Kuether scored 25 points to lead all scorers and Taylor Dickson added 16 points and five assists.
Karras’ first three gave the Bishops a 5-4 lead with 7:38 left in the first quarter and the Bishops never trailed again. They led 19-11 at the end of the first and 36-28 at the break.
Denison got as close as four, scoring seven of the first 10 points of the second half.
But, Karras responded with a trifecta of triples, the last of which pushed the lead to 53-37 with 3:04 left in the frame. OWU led 62-47 through three.
Jordan Holmes led the Big Red (10-11, 7-5) with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Denison closed the game with a 11-2 run.
Olentangy’s deepest run into the OHSAA Dual Team Tournament in program history came to an end as the Braves fell to Marysville 39-20 in the Division I, Region 6 semifinal Wednesday in Dublin.
Olentangy standouts included Jacob Sherman (113), who cruised past Jameson Bigler 18-3; Brady Pethtel (132), who handled Cole Hosterman 8-1; Ethan Robinson (182), who blanked Nathan Dewitt 7-0; and Colton Doup (195), who doubled up the Monarchs’ Logan Painter 4-2.
New Albany 1,978, Orange 1,858.
Orange 1,699, New Albany 1,563.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.