As Christian Jones’ half-court heave hit the backboard, the rim and then the floor, Wilmington’s upset attempt of nationally ranked Mount Union fell to the floor with it.
The Fightin’ Quakers dropped their eighth straight game, falling to No. 18 Mount Union, 82-79, Saturday in Ohio Athletic Conference action at Fred Raizk Arena in Hermann Court.
“I was proud of our effort. We just didn’t make enough plays in winning time, but from an effort standpoint, competitive standpoint, this was our most complete game,” said Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt. “Hopefully we are growing up a bit and figuring what it takes to compete at this level against a real high opponent. That’s our fourth or fifth Top 20 opponent we have played, so we have been through the meat grinder. I was really thrilled with the way we stepped up and confidently made shots, and that is going to be the key to our season.”
The Fightin’ Quakers led by as much as 13 in the first half and eight in the second half, but the senior-laden Purple Raiders showed their championship mettle each time. Leading by 11 points at the halftime, Wilmington quickly had it advantage dissipate.
“We came out with the right mentality,” said Hunt. “We were in attack mode offensively and I thought we did a real good job of running them off the three-point line. Unfortunately, rebounding wasn’t our strong suit tonight. But we are going to continue work on that and get better.”
Mount Union scored the first 11 points over the first four minutes of the second half.
“They are an incredibly good basketball team; very, very dangerous,” said Hunt. “You can’t let good teams like that get easy looks. The basket gets real big for good players. Bottom line for us, we have to find a way to not go through the extended scoring droughts we are going through. When we have scoring droughts, we become a team that settles, and we settled too much in the second half.”
However, the youthful Fightin’ Quakers showed some mettle of their own by scoring five straight. Wilmington grew its lead back to eighth with 12:46 remaining on a three-pointer by freshman Brandon Smith.
This time the Purple Raiders retaliated with an 18-0 run and never surrendered the lead.
Wilmington had a chance to put pressure on its visitors as Smith was fouled on a three-pointer with WC trailing by four. Unfortunately, Wilmington missed two of the three free throws and UMU pushed its lead back to seven.
Sophomore Nathan Scott and Smith combined for 25 points off the bench for the Fightin’ Quakers. Scott tallied a career-high 11 points, and Smith reached double figures for the third time this season with 14 points.
“Our bench gave us a huge boost tonight,” said Hunt. “Nate has a ton of ability, and we been waiting for it to break out. It was nice to see him shoot the ball in.”
Senior Zach McCorkle added 14 points and a team-high six boards in the loss.
Wilmington (1-10 overall, 0-6 OAC) hosts Ohio Northern 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.