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Defensive Records Fall as Wilmington Men’s Basketball Puts the Clamps on Chestnut Hill, 91-74, with Second Half Effort

Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Taj Almon against Bloomsburg, taken by Frank Stallworth.
Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Taj Almon against Bloomsburg, taken by Frank Stallworth.

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - - The defense put its foot down in the second half on Thursday night, leading the Wilmington University men's basketball team to a 91-74 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference road victory at Chestnut Hill inside Sorgenti Arena.

After heading into the halftime break trailing, 41-39, the Wildcats (7-5, 3-1 CACC) suffocated the Griffins (4-7, 1-3 CACC) in only allowing 33 points. The offense also started to click for the visitors in the second half, as they came back to score 52 points in the final stanza, shooting 55.2 percent from the floor for the game.

Spearheading the defensive turnaround in the second half was senior Tajee Almon who set a new single game program record with nine blocks in the game. He broke Allen Hairston's program mark of seven blocks in a single game in the team's NCAA era, set on December 17, 2008 at Bloomsburg.

The defense also forced the Griffins into nine turnovers in the second half, as the Wildcats came up with five steals for the comeback win. In all, 18 Chestnut Hill turnovers turned into 25 Wilmington points at the other end of the floor. The Wildcats also outpaced the Griffins, 19-4, in fastbreak points. Tyaire Ponzo-Meek collected three steals to more past Herbert Dennis on the program's all-time list with 145 career steals.

The teams traded buckets  to start the second half before a layup and a three-pointer by Nick Richards put the Wildcats in front for good, 48-44. The Griffins closed the gap to as few as 59-56 with 11:25 to play, but the Wildcats followed with back-to-back three-pointers from Brian Adkins and Drew Johnson II before a fastbreak dunk by Adkins regained a 67-56 lead with 9:47 left for the Wildcats.

The Griffins would only get to within as few as five points the rest of the way, with the Wildcats expanding the lead out to as many as 17 points down the stretch.

Richards collected his second straight 30-point game, shooting 12-of-18 from the floor, including 2-of-5 from three-point territory and 4-of-5 from the charity stripe. He also grabbed six rebounds, dished out five assists, and grabbed two steals to stuff the stat sheet.

Speaking of stuffing the stat sheet, Ponzo-Meek was a rebound away from recording the first ripple-double in program history, scoring 15 points while shooting 7-of-14 from the floor. He also led the team with nine rebounds while dishing out a career best 10 assists on the night. He also only committed one turnover in the game. The 10 assists were the most in a game since Valentino Thompson also dished out 10 on December 15, 2014 against Mercy. The single game program record is 14, set by Bradford Morris in 2004.

Johnson hit six three-pointers to finishing with 22 points, shooting 6-of-9 from deep and 8-of-13 from the floor for the game. Omari Dill-Pettiford was the final Wildcat in double figures, scoring 12 points while adding six rebounds, two assists, and one steal.

The Wildcats will go for their third straight CACC victory when they return to the court on Sunday, squaring off against crosstown rival Goldey-Beacom at the WU Athletics Complex.

The Wildcats and Lightning will be honoring the fallen firefighters from Delaware in 2016 prior to and during the game. The men's tip is scheduled for 3:00 p.m.