With the team struggling out the gate, a lineup switch changed the flow of the game, and the Wilmington College men's basketball team raced to the 85-72 non-conference victory over Berea Sunday in Fred Raizk Arena at Hermann Court.
In all, however, it was a complete effort – top to bottom – that enabled WC to earn its second straight victory. Five players reached double figures, and 11 players played at least 12 minutes.
"I told the guys after the game, it was a total team effort," said Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt. "We had numerous guys in foul trouble. Christian (Jones) and DJ (Iles) never really got into the game, period. It was really nice to see some us step up as a group and share the basketball."
After the visiting Mountaineers scored 12 of the game's first 16 points leading to a timeout, four new players entered the game with immediate dividends being paid. A three-pointer by sophomore Will Patrick (Chester, PA/Pickerington Central (OH)) and a steal and layup by freshman Payton Smith (Cincinnati, OH/Purcell Marian) pumped some energy into the team and the crowd.
The quick baskets ignited a game-changing 24-6 run helping the Fightin' Quakers to a 10-point lead. During the spurt, nine different players found the scorebook, but it was the Wilmington defense that was the key component. WC forced seven turnovers while limited Berea to 1-of-9 shooting in the 10-minute push.
Berea was able to keep touch with the Fightin' Quakers thanks in part to its ability to get to the free throw line. Wilmington allowed just one basket in the final 14-plus minutes of the first half, but the visitors connected on all 10 of their free throws.
"This team has a chance to be special defensively," said Hunt. "We have enough athletes and we actually have a group that wants to guard, and play the way we want to play. We've shown spurts that we can be special on the defensive end. We have to keep getting better. There were a couple of mental breakdowns to start the second half, leaving shooters."
Wilmington had its 16-point halftime lead almost immediately trimmed to 10, and BC crawled its way to within six with 12 minutes remaining. However, a 12-4 run – in which four different players scored – enabled the hosts to reclaim its double-figure advantage. Another spurt, 15-4, boosted the WC bulge to 21 points.
Sophomore Kevin Lewis (Cincinnati, OH/Clark Montessori) recorded the first double-double of his career with 13 points and 12 boards, nine of which were defensive. His on-ball defense was vital during the first half run.
"Kevin is an explosive athlete," said Hunt. "He has a high-motor, and I thought he was great on both ends of the floor – especially going to the glass."
Freshman Noah Chatman (Goodlottsville, TN/Beech) led the team with 15 points and eight rebounds – five offensive. Sophomore Andrew Russell (Columbus, OH/Central Crossing) continued his steady start to season, reaching double digits for the fourth straight game, tallying 14 points with four boards and two steals.
Despite struggling with foul trouble and his shot, Christian Jones (Hamilton, OH/Hamilton) dished out a team-high five assists.
Wilmington (2-2) travels to Defiance 7:30 Wednesday for another non-conference game.