Dimonde Hale scored a career-high 35 points and was 19-of-21 from the free throw line as Denison held on for a 79-74 victory over Washington & Jefferson.
After the Big Red controlled the first half, building a 14-point lead heading into the locker room, the second half was a rough-and-tumble affair that featured 31 fouls over the final 20 minutes of play. The game turned in the Presidents' favor with 12:42 to play in the second half when Bret Woolard was whistled for an intentional foul while going up for a rebound against Nate Bellhy of W&J. After the play, Brad Woolard came to the defense of his brother and was given a technical foul. W&J cashed in on four free throws while retaining possession. That's when Doug Johnson drew a foul and connected on his pair of charity tosses. What was once a 14-point lead, was now just an 8-point lead for DU.
Over the next three minutes, the Presidents would whittle the lead away at the free throw line and with 9:24 to play, Nate Bellhy's free throws trimmed the Denison lead to 59-56.
The game would remain tight and with 2:31 left, W&J's Mike Resnick scored on a driving layup, cutting the deficit to 72-69. Resnick would later foul Bret Woolard, who split the pair of free throws, putting DU back up by two possessions.
W&J's Zach Bellhy found his shooting stroke in the second half and connected on a jumper, cutting the lead to 73-71 with 53 seconds left. Denison would counter with a long possession and a clutch jumper in the lane by Bret Woolard just before the shot clock expired, making it a two-possession game with 22 second left. Woolard would come up with a steal on W&J's next possession and the sophomore would ice the game with two more free throws with 12 seconds remaining.
Hale was 8-of-14 from the field and an incredible 19-of-21 from the free throw line for a career-high 35 points and a game-high eight rebounds. As a team, the Big Red was 27-of-32 from the line and 23-of-54 from the field. The Presidents were also locked in at the charity stripe, going 25-for-29. Zach Bellhy led the Presidents with 28 points.
Following Hale in the scoring column was first-year guard Darius White. The rookie came off the bench in the first half and connected on his first three shot attempts, which were all 3-point field goals. In the second half he knocked down a fourth 3-pointer, giving him 12 points. Bret Woolard ended with 11 points and six rebounds. Briggs King added eight points and seven boards.
On the glass, DU held a 40-23 advantage. They dominated the offensive boards, snagging 16 to W&J's five. The Big Red committed 14 turnovers while the Presidents ended with 10.
Denison returns to action this Saturday (Nov. 17) with a 3 p.m. tip-off in Richmond, Ind. against Earlham College.
Notables: This marked the first season-opening win by a Denison team since the 2002-03 season ... Dimonde Hale moved past Kevin Haynes '86 and Charlie Delacey '02 on the all-time scoring list tonight. Hale now sits in ninth place in scoring with 1,323 career points ... Dimonde Hale's 21 free throw attempts were the most by a DU player in a single-game since Charlie Delacey attempted 20 against Oberlin 2001. Hale's 19 free throw's made were the most since Dan Hodgkinson sank 13 in a win over Earlham in 2005 ... Tonight's win was No. 1,000 in school history. Basketball began at Denison in 1899.