NEWARK, Del. - - Tenacious defense, especially late in the contest, helped carry the Wilmington University men's basketball team to its first victory of the season, defeating Kutztown, 74-69, on Saturday afternoon at the WU Athletics Complex.
The Wildcats (1-8) forced Kutztown (4-5) into 21 turnovers in the contest, coming away with eight steals which turned into 26 points at the other end for the Wildcats. The Wildcats also outscored the Golden Bears, 36-32, in the paint, despite shooting just 33.3 percent from the floor, including only hitting 6-of-29 from beyond the three-point arc in the game.
With the Wildcats leading 15-11 midway through the first half, the Wildcats ran off nine straight, including a back-to-back buckets by Danny Walsh, the second being a three-pointer, to take a 24-11 lead, their biggest of the game, with 8:31 to play before the break. Jermaine Head put the Wildcats back up 13 once again with 6:45 to play, but the Golden Bears make a push at the end of the half.
Kutztown answered by scoring 10-straight, getting within 26-25, with 3:03 to play. Kutztown completed the comeback and tied the game at 28, but the Wildcats were able to stem the tide and keep a lead in the first half. Head hit two from the foul line to move back up five points, but the Golden Bears hit a three on their final possession, sending the game into the locker room with the Cats up 35-33.
The Golden Bears tied the game, 37-37, early in the second half, but the Wildcats were able to maintain a slim lead in a back-and-forth opening nine minutes of the second half. With the Wildcats leading 50-46, the Bears rattled off a 13-0 run, taking a 59-50 lead with a bucket in the paint with 9:03 showing on the clock.
Still down nine with less than eight minutes to play, Kam Cooper hit a three-pointer to start the comeback for the Wildcats. Head and Eli Gibson put in layup to cut the deficit to two and then Kam Cooper hit another three-pointer to bring the Wildcats back to within one, 63-62, with 5:44 left to play. Gibson than gave the Wildcats the lead once more with a putback layup, 64-63, with 4:55 on the clock.
The teams went on the see-saw for the next two buckets, with Jordan Harding finishing off an offensive rebound by Danny Walsh for the 66-65 lead with 1:45 to play. On the ensuing possession, Kam Cooper jumped the passing lane for the steal and brought the home fans to their feet with a momentum swinging dunk, 68-65, with 1:28 to play.
Kutztown hit two from the foul line on its next possession, but Jermaine Head was able to sink two of his own to maintain a three-point lead. The Golden Bears than missed a three-pointer on their next possession, and Jordan Harding came down with the much needed rebound. Kam Cooper than sealed the victory with another steal and fast break layup inside 10 seconds to play before settling for the 74-69 victory.
Jermaine Head went a perfect 10-for-10 from the foul line and finished with 27 points while adding five rebounds, and three steals. Kam Cooper came off the bench to score 12 points, 10 of which came in the second half, on 4-of-6 shooting, adding four rebounds, three steals, and two assists. Eli Gibson and Chima Okwu-Lawrence finished with eight points each while Gibson led the team with six rebounds.
Akello Mosby led the Golden Bears with 18 points and seven rebounds as the visitors out-rebounded the Wildcats, 45-38, for the game. But the Wildcats attacked the offensive glass, grabbing 15 rebounds leading to 15 second chance points.
The Wildcats will look to make it back-to-back wins over PSAC opponents on Monday night when they welcome Bloomsburg to the Complex for another nonconference contest. The opening tip is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.