WILMINGTON – A cold shooting night doomed the Wilmington College men’s basketball team Tuesday and the result was a 58-48 loss to Mount St. Joseph in the season opener at Hermann Court’s Fred Raizk Arena, 58-48.
Wilmington led 29-28 but Mount St. Joseph went on an 11-3 run to pull out to a seven-point advantage and kept the game out of reach the rest of the way.
Andrew Russell led Wilmington with 14 points while William Greene scored 10.
“The story of the evening was empty possession after empty possession,” WC head coach KC Hunt said after the game. “When you go 4 for 25 from 3 … some of them were bad that we didn’t want to take but a lot of them were good.”
Hunt said his staff recorded nine missed layups in the first half alone.
“We set basketball back 15 years offensively,” Hunt said. “The moment got too big for us.”
Wilmington finished the game 20 for 67 from the field.
The WC defense held MSJ to 33 percent shooting, 17 for 51, and forced 17 turnovers.
“We’re going back to basics,” said Hunt. “Ironically, I think this can be a good offensive basketball team.”
Wilmington trailed by three points on three occasions in the first half but neither team was able to build much of a lead. Mount St. Joseph led 15-12 when WC’s DJ Iles swished a three-pointer from the top of the key at the shot clock buzzer to tie the game 15-15 with 5:20 to play in the first half.
The Lions then went up 19-15, the largest difference by either team in the opening 20 minutes. The Fightin’ Quakers, though, tied the game at 19 on baskets by William Greene and Noah Chatman. Mount St. Joseph led 22-19 at halftime.
The game seemed to turn in favor of the Fightin’ Quakers three minutes into the second half. Kevin Lewis’ nifty pass led to a Will Patrick layup as WC pulled with 25-24.
Patrick then assisted on Andrew Russell’s long-range three and Wilmington led 27-25 at the 16:42 mark. But the Lions were unfazed and regained the lead at 28-27.
Wilmington went up 29-28 on a Chatman basket, assist Christian Jones, but then Lions went on a run. Mount St. Joseph scored 11 of the next 14 points to grab a 39-32 advantage as the Quakers went through a ragged period of play, lowlighted by several missed shots from close in.
Hunt’s crew cut it to six at 47-41 but the Mount quickly pushed it to 51-41 shortly thereafter. Russell poured in five points to get it back to 53-46 but WC would get no closer the rest of the way.
SPIRITED CROWD: One of the largest crowds in recent memory was on hand for the men’s opener. And it was a spirited 900 or so at FRA thanks, in part, to the two animated head coaches. The fans of the game, winners of a Donato’s pizza, was the Sigma Zeta fraternity.
DUNK CHAMPION: For the second year in a row, sophomore Kevin Lewis electrified the crowd at Wilmington’s Hermann Madness celebration by winning the dunk contest. Lewis is a 5-10 guard.
UP NEXT: Wilmington will travel to Memphis, Tenn. to play in the Rhodes Tip-Off Tournament. The Fightin’ Quakers will open with the tournament against the Rhodes Lynx 2 p.m. Saturday.
Huntingdon will face East Texas Baptist in the Noon game on Saturday.
The tournament’s consolation and championship games will be played Sunday afternoon, the consolation game at noon and the title game at 2 p.m.
Reach Mark Huber at 937-556-5765, or on Twitter @wnjsports