Ohio Wesleyan utilized a pair of big runs in the second half to oust the Denison Big Red from the North Coast Athletic Conference Tournament Quarterfinals, 77-56, from Branch Rickey Arena in Delaware, Ohio.
After suffering a three point loss to the Battling Bishops in Saturday's regular season finale, the seventh-seeded Big Red travelled to second-seeded Ohio Wesleyan for the rematch. Early on it closely resembled the weekend's see-saw affair. Denison led early and trailed by just five at the intermission, 37-32.
In the second half, DU came out of the gates strong and after two Darius White 3-pointers in the opening three minutes, the Big Red cut its deficit to one at 40-39. The Battling Bishops would respond with the first to two game changing runs thanks to Taylor Rieger's play in transition. Over the next five minutes, OWU would put together a 13-2 run to take a 53-41 lead with 12:33 left.
Just as momentum was starting to turn in the Big Red's favor, OWU went on an 8-0 run that pushed its lead to 15 with 4:21 to play, proving that a Denison comeback would not be in the cards on this night.
Over that final 7:52, OWU would outscore DU 18-4.
Ohio Wesleyan got 20 points off the bench from Claude Gray. The freshman was 8-of-11 and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. He also chipped in seven rebounds and added three steals. Leading all players with 23 points was Rieger who connected on 11-of-20 from the field. Andy Winters scored 14 points and Marshall Morris helped OWU dominate the glass with a 14 rebound performance.
Second chance points were a factor thanks to Ohio Wesleyan's +29 rebound advantage. OWU outscored Denison 18-3 on second opportunities and 16-2 when in transition.
DU got 14 points and six rebounds in 31 minutes from Briggs King and 15 points off a 5-of-7 shooting performance from 3-point range by White.
Senior Dimonde Hale scored 12 points and led the way with seven rebounds in his final game in a Big Red uniform. The Columbus Northland grad leaves DU as one of the most decorated players in school history. In 105 career games he ranks fourth in scoring with 1,726 points. He also leaves with 702 career rebounds while shooting 51 percent from the field for his career.
Fellow senior, Akpapunam, scored three points in 23 minutes. He averaged a career-high 6.8 ppg this season and leaves DU with 454 career points.
Denison's season comes to an end at 9-17 while Ohio Wesleyan improves to 20-5. They will advance to Friday's NCAC Semifinals where they will take on third-seeded Kenyon in Wooster, Ohio. The top-seeded Fighting Scots dispatched eighth-seeded Oberlin and will host the weekend's semifinals and finals.