GRANVILLE, Ohio— David Meurer drilled a 3-pointer with 1.9 seconds remaining to send No. 21 Denison to a thrilling 83-80 win over Ohio Wesleyan from Livingston Gym. The win keeps Denison undefeated and in first place in the North Coast Athletic Conference at 5-0. Ohio Wesleyan drops to 4-1 in conference play.
After leading for the majority of the game, Denison trailed 78-77 with just over two minutes to play. OWU's Ben Simpson missed a shot down low and Jett Speelman was there for the rebound. At the other end, it was Big Red reserve Johnny Vernasco who knocked down a clutch 3-pointer from the elbow off a pass from Speelman. The shot put Denison back on top, 80-78 with 1:59 to play.
The Battling Bishops came right back as Jon Griggs scored in the paint, tying the game at 80-80. The Big Red turned to their leading scorer, Speelman, who had a game-high 25 points at the time. His shot missed the mark and Simpson gathered the rebound. Seconds after the rebound, a foul on the Big Red sent Simpson to the line with a chance to break the tie. Simpson missed the front end of the one-and-one and Vernasco was there for the rebound.
After a Denison timeout, Meurer took a 3-pointer with 21 seconds that missed, but Vernasco was once again Johnny-on-the-spot with the timely rebound with 10 seconds left. That set the stage for Meurer, who did his best Kyrie Irving impression dribbling the clock down only to let it fly with three seconds on the clock. His shot from well beyond the arc was good but 1.9 seconds remained.
The Bishops called a timeout to set up their final play and it nearly worked. The long inbounds pass was caught at the other foul line and a quick shovel pass found Will Orr who just missed the game-tying attempt from the top of the arc.
The win improves Denison's record to 11-1, continuing the program's best start since 1923.
Meurer finished with 19 points off an 8-of-16 shooting performance. Speelman scored 25 while going 8-of-14 from the field. He was 3-of-4 from 3-point range and a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line. On the season, Speelman is shooting 54 percent from long range and 96 percent from the line.
Vernasco's 12 points and five rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench proved to be the X-factor. Matthew Bauer added nine points and four rebounds while Garrett Collier chipped in six points while leading the team with seven assists.
Denison shot 54 percent from the field (31-of-57) and was 8-of-16 on triple tries.
Ohio Wesleyan got 25 points from Seth Clark, 20 of which came in the first half. Simpson added 16 and Orr finished with nine. The Battling Bishops shot 51 percent from the field but were just 9-of-32 (.281) from deep. Denison also held a 34-24 advantage on the glass.
The Big Red returns to the court on Saturday, Jan. 7 when they host Allegheny at 3 p.m.