SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - - The Wilmington University men's basketball team stretched its winning streak to four straight with a 69-61 nonconference victory at American International to kick-start the AIC Holiday Classic on Saturday afternoon.
The Wildcats (7-3) earned the victory despite being out-rebounded, 51-36, for the game, including a 24-7 disadvantage on the offensive glass. The Yellow Jackets (6-5) turned those offensive rebounds in a 28-5 advantage in second chance points. But the home team shot just 29.4 percent from the floor in the game.
Nick Richards again led the Wildcats with 25 points, shooting 8-of-18 from the floor while adding a perfect 9-of-9 from the foul line. Jermaine Head added 11 points while Miles Gillette chipped in with 10 points. As a team, the Wildcats went 20-of-23 from the foul line for the game.
In a tight game throughout, Richards hit a jumper to put the Wildcats ahead, 8-5, with 15:50 to play in the first half. Shaw Church gave the Wildcats an eight-point advantage, 20-12, with a three-pointer with 6:16 left, capping a quick 6-0 spurt for the visitors. A Church defensive rebound and push ahead to Gillette led to a dunk before Gillette gave the Wildcats their largest lead of the first half, 25-16, with a three-pointer with 3:10 before the half. A Richards' layup sent the teams into the locker room with the Wildcats ahead, 29-22.
The second half starter much faster than the first half, as the Yellow Jackets used a 15-7 run to take a 37-36 lead with 15:37 left in regulation.
The game was last tied at 43-43 before the Wildcats took the lead for good. Richards, who scored 13 of his 25 points in the second half, hit two technical free throws to break the tie for good. He then laid in another bucket on the ensuing possession for the quick four-point lead.
Head then hit a three-pointer and followed with a securing a defensive rebounding and pushing the ball coast to coast for a layup and the 52-45 lead with 8:16 showing on the clock. Two more Richards free throws pushed the lead back out to nine points, but AIC didn't go down easily.
The home team got the deficit down to five points with 4:34 to play, but Zahir Robinson hit a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to push the lead back out to 61-53.
A Yellow Jacket three-pointer brought the home team with within 61-57, but Gillette followed with a clutch three of his own to keep AIC at an arm's length. The Yellow Jackets got back to within five, 66-61, with 1:09 to play, but that would be the final point they would score the rest of the way.
Vincent Kent came off the bench to secure a team high seven rebounds while adding six blocks. His six blocks are the most in a single game since Taj Almon denied nine shots at Chestnut Hill on December 15, 2016.
The Wildcats remain in action at the AIC Holiday Classic tomorrow, as they take on Franklin Pierce with a 1:00 p.m. tipoff. The Ravens defeated Bloomfield, 85-80, in the other AIC Holiday Classic game on Saturday.