The Denison men's basketball team dropped its season opener to Washington & Jefferson, 84-72, on Wednesday night at the Henry Memorial Center in Washington, Pa.
The opening 20 minutes features 13 lead changes and six ties. Trailing 28-27 with less than six minutes to play in the period, junior Brad Woolard put the Big Red back in front with a three-pointer. Woolard split a pair at the line at the 5:16 mark to extend the Denison lead to three.
On DU's next trip down the floor, sophomore Patrick Keller buried a jumper in the paint off an assist from freshman David Meurer. A free throw from Keller and two more by Woolard pushed the Denison advantage to eight with 3:30 left in the first. The Big Red capped off its 11-point run with a Woolard layup off an assist from senior Alex Longi. Woolard had eight of the 11 points, while Keller chipped in the other three.
The Presidents shrunk the deficit to 39-38 with 58 seconds to play, but a Woolard jumper in the closing seconds sent Denison into the locker room with a three-point edge.
DU carried the momentum into the second half, building a 52-44 lead roughly three and a half minutes into the second. However, Washington & Jefferson used an 11-2 run over a three minute span to take its first lead since the 6:36 mark of the first period. The Presidents' run saw four different players score, including a five-point display from Mike Locher.
The two teams passed the lead back-and-forth for the next four minutes. Trailing 60-59, Keller took a pass from senior DJ Bridges and knocked down a jumper to give Denison a one-point edge. However, a 13-4 spurt put W&J in front by eight with 5:50 to play. Meurer converted an old-fashioned three-point play to shrink the margin to five, but the home team answered with six-straight to rebuild a double-digit lead, a deficit the Big Red couldn't overcome.
Both teams shot over 40 percent from the field. However, Denison converted just 25 percent (4-of-16) from three-point range and went 18-for-29 (62 percent) from the charity stripe. On the flip side, the Presidents shot 42 percent (8-for-19) from beyond the arc and 87 percent (26-for-30) at the foul line. The Big Red held a 39-35 edge on the glass and outscored W&J in the paint, 30-28. Washington and Jefferson's biggest contribution came from its bench. The W&J reserves outscored the Big Red bench 49-8.
Woolard led all scorers with 23 points on 7-of-13 from the field and an 8-for-12 performance at the line. He also grabbed eight boards in 30 minutes. Meurer scored 18 points and had three steals in his collegiate debut, while Longi grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
Locher paced the Presidents with 20 points and eight boards off the benth, while Doug Johnson and Mike Resnik added 17 and 14 points, respectively.
Denison falls to 0-1, while the Presidents improves to 2-1. The Big Red returns to action on Saturday when they open their home schedule against Marietta College at 3 p.m.