WILMINGTON, Ohio – Trailing 63-54 with just over two minutes to play, the Wilmington College men's basketball team snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with an 11-0 run capped by game-winning layup from Jeffery Mansfield in a 65-63 Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) victory over Muskingum University at Fred Raizk Arena on Wednesday evening.
"Tonight was a gritty and gutty performance by our guys," Head Coach K.C. Hunt said. "We've taken some body blows this year. It would have been easy for us to pack it in multiple times, but they are a resilient group."
The Fightin' Quakers opened the game on a 14-8 run capped by consecutive blocks from Collmann Aaron that turned into a Travis Mitchell layup on the other end of the floor. That advantage would hold until the midway point of the half when the Fighting Muskies scored baskets on four consecutive possessions to gain a 21-20 lead, their second of the game. The hosts would take a five-point lead (32-27) into halftime, however, as Mansfield scored Wilmington's final eight points of the half.
Muskingum, which like Wilmington was searching for its first OAC win, pulled ahead in the second half and looked to be in control as Alex Masinelli's 25th and 26th points made the score 63-54 Muskies with 2:18 to play. That basket would prove to be the Muskies' final points of the game as what followed was the game-winning run.
Mansfield started things off with two free throws, and after Muskingum missed two on the other end, Anthony Freeman, who sparked the comeback earlier with a couple of triples, cut it to 63-58 with 1:20 to play. A missed Muskingum layup, offensive rebound and turnover followed, and a Mansfield bucket made it a single-possession contest. After a Wilmington timeout, Travis Mitchell got his hands on a Tanner Gensler pass resulting in a Freeman steal, and Freeman found Aaron wide open on the baseline for a game-tying triple. A Muskingum timeout resulted in the same, another Gensler turnover, and Mansfield drove into the lane for the game-winning basket.
"We stepped up and made some big shots, but ultimately, we won the game because we stepped up in a big way on defense," Hunt said. "We got every loose ball and our activity level was off the chart, especially with our deflections."
Wilmington held a 24-23 edge in made field goals as well as by a 9-5 margin in triples while Muskingum made four more free throws. The Muskies also held a 49-28 rebounding advantage which included 19 offensive boards, but couldn't overcome 22 turnovers, 16 of which resulted in Quaker steals.
Mansfield finished with 20 points to go along with eight rebounds, six assists and eight drawn fouls. Aaron had perhaps his best game in a Wilmington uniform with 18 points, four rebounds, three blocks, two assists and two steals while Freeman was the other Quaker to score in double figures with 13 points.
Masinelli led Muskingum and all scorers with 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting in defeat.
The win comes in a much-needed way for Wilmington, which had let two leads similar to the one Muskingum had on Wednesday slip away. The Quakers continue OAC play by hosting John Carroll University on Saturday.