WILMINGTON — The Wilmington College men’s basketball team earned its first win of the 2020-21 season Saturday evening, grinding out an 88-84 victory over Muskingum University in Ohio Athletic Conference action from Fred Raizk Arena at Hermann Court.
Matt Smith, a graduate of Wilmington High School, scored the first five points for the Fightin’ Quakers that turned out to be half of a 10-0 run capped by an Andrew Clark three-pointer giving the hosts a 10-2 advantage.
The Fighting Muskies stopped the run with a Trey Singleton basket, but the hosts, anxious to avenge a defeat from the night before, kept the pressure on. A triple from Jayden Lewis along with two baskets from Hunter Ruckel helped extend the Quaker advantage to 25-10 midway through the half.
Both squads would trade baskets over the next 10 minutes with Wilmington maintaining a double-digit edge and a 44-33 lead at halftime.
The first five minutes of the second half were much the same as the end of the first as a basket from Jeffery Mansfield made it 53-40 four minutes into the session. The Quakers were stuck on that number for four minutes, however, as Muskingum began chipping into the deficit.
A Bilal Sow basket at the 12:07 mark ended the drought and pushed WC ahead 55-47.
Similar to the matchup at Fred Raizk Arena the previous year, the Muskies just wouldn’t go away. The visitors took a brief 66-64 lead on a Tanner Gensler triple with 6:21 to play, forcing Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt to call timeout.
Wilmington responded, hitting two free throws thanks to a technical foul, and with possession gained from the technical, Sow nailed a triple from the baseline. That seemed to spark the Quakers on the offensive side of the floor as the hosts scored points on four of the next five possessions, two of which were triples. That pushed the WC lead to 79-72, a margin that would hold to give the Quakers their first victory.
“This was the best competitive spirit, fight and toughness we’ve showed so far this young season,” Hunt said. “It was nice to see our young guys and young team in general battle through adversity and make winning plays at winning time.”
Both teams shot well from the field with the Quakers converting 30-of-55 (54.5 percent) and the Muskies 28-of-56 (50.0 percent). Wilmington made three more triples (9-6), however, and perhaps most importantly, held a great three-point shooting team to just 31.6 percent from distance.
Individually, Sow led all scorers, establishing a new career high with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting to go along with six rebounds. Mansfield scored 17 points and dished out six assists while Smith, Ruckel and Dado, who also had six rebounds, also scored in double figures.
“Our freshmen, Bilal, Hunter and Jayden Lewis, gave us a huge spark off the bench,” said Hunt.
Wilmington (1-3) faces Capital University for two games this weekend.