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Hot Start Gives Wilmington Men’s Basketball Wire-to-Wire Win over USciences, 79-70

Copyright 2017; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Drew Johnson II knocking down one of his six three pointers against USciences, taken by Frank Stallworth.
Copyright 2017; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Drew Johnson II knocking down one of his six three pointers against USciences, taken by Frank Stallworth.

Video Recap at bottom of page.

NEWARK, Del. - - A strong start paced the Wilmington University men's basketball team to a wire-to-wire win over the University of the Sciences, 79-70, to keep pace atop the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference South Division standings on Tuesday night at the WU Athletics Complex.

Unlike a number of games throughout this season, the Wildcats (13-6, 8-2 CACC) were the ones to get out to a fast start and play ahead for the entire game. The game was only tied for 1:33 of game action, with the Wildcats holding a lead for the other 38:27.

The Wildcats shot 55.6 percent from the floor in the first half, using the hot shooting of Drew Johnson II, Tajee Almon, and Tyaire Ponzo-Meek to get out to a 37-28 halftime lead. Johnson and Almon didn't miss in the first half, combing to shoot 9-of-9 from the floor for 22 points. Johnson was deadly from deep, hitting all four of his three-pointers and 5-of-5 overall to lead with 14 points. Almon went 4-for-4 from the floor for eight points. Ponzo-Meek rarely missed in the first half, shooting 3-of-4 from the floor and 1-of-1 from the foul line for seven points.

Johnson hit his first three-pointer of the second half to start the game 5-of-5 from deep, and layups from Nick Richards and Omari Dill-Pettiford quickly put the Wildcats up 45-33.

The Devils (7-12, 5-6 CACC) battled back to get to within 50-44, but Ponzo-Meek hit back-to-back layups before Johnson hit his sixth three-pointer of the night to regain a 57-44 lead. Ponzo-Meek hit a pair from the foul line to cap the 9-0 run and give the Wildcats their largest lead of the night, 59-44, with 10:20 to paly.

But the Devils didn't go down easily, as they again battled back to within six points as late a 4:45 showing on the clock, 63-57. Dill-Pettiford stopped the comeback with a much needed old-fashioned three-point play before Johnson grabbed an offensive board and put-back in one motion for the 68-57 lead.

The Devils fought back once again, climbing to within six once more, 72-66, with 1:28 left in regulation, but the Wildcats went 5-of-6 from the foul line down the stretch and threw in a Almon fast break dunk to seal the deal.

Johnson finished 6-of-7 from beyond the three-point arc, tying the second most made three-pointers in a game in program history. He tied his career high with 22 points, shooting 8-of-9 from the floor for the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out two assists.

Almon secured his second straight double-double, scoring 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting while adding 4-of-4 from the foul line. He grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds and added two blocked shots. Ponzo-Meek scored 18 points while grabbing five rebounds and dishing out four assists while Dill-Pettiford rounded out the double-digit scorers for the Wildcats with 15 points, three rebounds, and three assists.

The team finished 28-of-56 (50.0 percent) from the floor and out-rebounded the Devils, 41-34. The win exacted a loss to the Devils earlier in the season.

The Wildcats hit the road for their next two games, as they head to Holy Family for another CACC South Division showdown on Saturday afternoon. The men cap the doubleheader with a 3:00 p.m. tip-off in Philadelphia.