By Tim Alford and Heather Kuch
News Editor and Sports Editor
After two straight losses against Hiram on Jan. 16 and Wooster on Jan. 19, the men’s basketball team dominated Wabash on Wednesday night, winning by a score of 77-53. This game extended their overall record to 14-4 and conference record to 7-3. Senior Anjuwon Spence said the team was able to move past their losses, and he believes that they are prepared to continue their success.
“We just tried to get past the losses mentally and put them behind us so we could move forward,” Spence said. “The win against Wabash was a sigh of relief, and it put us back on the right track.”
Wabash kept the game close throughout the first half, tying the score at 20 with 7:50 to go before halftime. OWU then went on a drive and outscored Wabash 19-6 to finish off the half ahead 39-26. OWU continued their scoring drive in the second half, expanding the lead to 20 points with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
Senior Vaughn Spaulding said the win was crucial in improving the teams’ mental game.
“We got our confidence back,” Spaulding said. “Not only because we won, but because we blew them out.”
The starters for the Bishops accounted for 69 of 77 points scored for the team. Senior Marshall Morris led the team with 20 points, followed by senior Andy Winters and junior Reuel Rogers with 16 points each.
Winters said the team went into the game with the mindset of seeing how they could respond after the losses to Hiram and Wooster.
“We wanted to grow from those losses and continue grinding out this tough conference schedule,” Winters said.
Spaulding said the team worked on improving their shooting accuracy and other weaknesses.
“We worked on flaws, picked up our defense, and got a lot of shooting practice in because we couldn’t make anything in the Hiram and Wooster games,” Spaulding said.
Freshman Claude Gray agreed with Spaulding and said the team helped each other to stay motivated and to improve.
“We came together as a team and worked on shooting,” Gray said. “We worked on a lot of shooting. It feels good to be back on the winning side after our win against Wabash, and we want to continue that tradition.”
Coach Mike DeWitt said the game against Wooster was a great game despite the loss.
“We just need to do some little things a little better to win games like that against an outstanding team,” DeWitt said.
Winters said the loss to Wooster will help the team to grow.
“Many tend to be complacent with our success thus far, but playing a good Wooster team gave us an opportunity to grow as a team and continue to work on our weaknesses,” DeWitt said.
DeWitt said several people told him the crowd at the Wooster game was the best crowd they have seen in 25 years.
“The crowd support was absolutely awesome,” DeWitt said. “It’s great to see the community and OWU students support their peers in anything. We hope they come out again for our next big home game against rival Wittenberg next Wednesday.”
Athletic Facilities Director Dustin Rudegeair, 2008 graduate and former OWU basketball player, said there have always been big crowds for the Wittenberg and Wooster games, but the game on Jan. 16 may have been the biggest crowd since the late 1980s when Ohio Wesleyan won the National Championship.
“My sophomore year, which would have been 2006, we played Wooster when they were number one in the country and beat them,” Rudegeair said. “That was probably the closest to how many we had in there on Saturday. I think the fact that OWU got into the top 10 in the national rankings for probably the first time since the 1988 season and that they are an exciting team to watch because of their athleticism, speed and dunking ability helped bring in such a large crowd.”
Winters said it was fun to play in the atmosphere created by the large crowd against Wooster.
“It meant a lot to us to see the support from the student body and community,” Winters said. “We want to continue to give our fans reasons to come watch our games.”
The next game for Ohio Wesleyan is home against Oberlin on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 3 p.m.
The rematch against Wooster is away on Wednesday, Feb. 6, at 8 p.m.
Winter said the team is preparing by taking it one game at a time.
“We are going to continue to work hard in practice and prepare for our next task,” Winters said.