DELAWARE, Ohio -- Nate Axelrod and Ben Simpson combined for 52 points to send Ohio Wesleyan to an 82-77 victory over 12th-ranked Denison on Wednesday night at Branch Rickey Arena.
At the conclusion of the first 20 minutes of play, the Big Red held a slim 38-37 lead. The two squads toss the lead back-and-forth 11 times over the course of the first 11 minutes of the second half. Trailing by a pair with 6:12 to go, senior Jett Speelman knocked down both attempts at the free throw line to tie the game for the 11th time at 64-64.
On the Bishops ensuing possession, Simpson took a pass from Grant Gossard and finished at the rim to regain a two-point lead for the home team. Roughly a minute later, Simpson hammered down a thunderous dunk but was whistled for a technical foul after excessively hanging on the rim. Senior Andrew Castagnetti made the foul shot to pull DU within one possession. Simpson buried a three on Ohio Wesleyan's next trip down the floor, while Axelrod scored in the paint to push the Bishop lead to eight with 2:30 to go.
With less than two minutes to play, OWU still led by eight at 75-67. After forcing a giveaway by Jon Griggs, junior Garrett Collier earned a trip to the charity stripe after drawing a foul by Griggs. Collier split the pair at the line. Following the miss, the Big Red went into an aggressive full-court press in an attempt to regain possession. Senior David Meurer came away with Denison's second-consecutive takeaway and once again Collier earned a trip at the foul line after being fouled by Griggs. The junior's split at the stripe made it a two-possession affair.
After empty possessions by both teams, Collier came away with the Big Red's third steal in just 50 seconds and turned the takeaway into an easy layup to shrink the deficit to 75-71. A 4-for-4 showing at the free throw line pushed the Ohio Wesleyan lead back to 79-71 with 40.6 seconds on the clock.
Simpson had a chance to put the game away, but a miss on the front end of a 1-and-1 kept Denison in the game. Just five seconds after Simpson's miss, Meurer buried a deep three to make it a five-point game. Axelrod split his two free throw attempts to keep it a six-point game. After corralling an offensive board, Speelman found Meurer for another deep trey to pull within three.
DU tried to generate one more takeaway, but they were unsuccessful and forced to foul Axelrod with 11 seconds to play. He knocked down both free throws to lock up the five-point win.
Denison shot 37 percent (24-for-65) from the field, while the Bishops had a 49 percent (29-for-59) conversion rate. The Big Red outrebounded OWU 41-35, but lost the battle in the paint 40-30. The DU reserves outscored the Ohio Wesleyan bench 28-20.
Senior Matthew Bauer paced the Big Red with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Meurer chipped in 16 tallies and four steals. Speelman also had a double-double with 10 points and 11 boards. Bret Woolard paced the Big Red bench with 11 points in 17 minutes.
Axelrod led all scorers with 28 points followed by Simpson with 24. Simpson also grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds.
With the loss, Denison falls to 17-3 overall and 11-2 in the North Coast Athletic Conference while the win moves OWU to 14-6 on the year and 11-2 in league play. The Big Red returns to action this Saturday when they host Wooster. Tip-off is scheduled for 3 p.m.