UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS – The Wilmington College men’s basketball team put a scare into fifth ranked John Carroll Saturday, but the Blue Streaks scored 13 of the game’s final 16 points in escaping with the 79-70 win in Ohio Athletic Conference action at the DeCarlo Center.
“I thought we gave a great effort, and I was pleased with our growth,” said Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt. “But ultimately, this isn’t about psychologically winning or feeling good about ourselves; it’s about closing out the game. We played 37 minutes of great basketball, and unfortunately, we couldn’t close the deal.”
Over the final four minutes as JCU was going on its run, Wilmington turned the ball over four times, while shooting 0-for-4 from the field and just 3-of-5 from the line.
“It’s real simple, (we were) sloppy with the basketball, missed layups and missed free throws,” Hunt said of the final stretch. “It’s tough to close out games when you are hurting yourself, and we absolutely hurt ourselves down the stretch.”
John Carroll took the early lead with a 20-6 run to open up a nine-point lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half.
However, sophomore D.J. Iles scored seven straight points to swing momentum back to the visitors. It was enough of a boost to allow the Fightin’ Quakers to take a two-point advantage at the break.
Iles finished with a career-high 18 points, including 11-of-12 from the free throw line. It was the third straight time the point guard has reached double figures. He has made 26-of-28 from the free throw line in those three games.
“We are asking a lot of him, and I think he keeps growing every day, as with all of our young guys,” said Hunt. “D.J., in particular, has been a rock at the point guard position. That is something we are going to need in the last eight games if we want to do something in this tournament.”
Neither team grabbed control of the game during the first 15-plus minutes of the second half as the biggest lead held by either team was three points.
However, the experience and depth of the Blue Streaks finally got to Wilmington.
“Fatigue played a part and immaturity played a part, and we got relaxed and comfortable,” said Hunt. “One thing when you are playing John Carroll is you can’t take a break and you can’t relax. They are relentless from the get-go, especially this year, and that combination of things really caught up to us.
“If we can play like we did for the first 37 minutes of that game, the rest of the (season), we will win a lot of basketball games,” Hunt added. “I was real proud of our effort. We didn’t get the result we wanted, and we are not in the business of feeling good about ourselves. We have to start closing out games and win like we are capable. All in all, we took a big step forward today and we have to take another big step next week.”
Freshman Andrew Russell reached double figures for the fifth time this season, tallying 13 points and pulling down six rebounds. Senior Zach McCorkle pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds with eight points.
Wilmington (3-12 overall, 2-8 OAC) travels to Bexley to face Capital in Ohio Athletic Conference action.