The Wilmington College men's basketball team had nationally ranked Marietta feeling the pressure with six minutes remaining, but the experienced Pioneers went on a 16-4 run to pull away, and the Fightin' Quakers fell, 94-79, Saturday in Ohio Athletic Conference action at Fred Raizk Arena in Hermann Court.
"We didn't make enough plays down the stretch, when it was winning time, from free throws to free throw box out to all the little things you need to do to beat a quality opponent," said Wilmington head coach K.C. Hunt.
Wilmington came out on fire, hitting six of its first seven shots, and led by eight to force a quick Pioneer timeout. The hiatus in action seemingly did the trick as Marietta found its shooting stroke and in the blink of an eye – led by double figures.
The Pioneers hit their first six three-pointers and eight of their first 10 to open up its lead. WC fought back to get to within one, but another Marietta spurt gave the visitors its cushion.
"I thought (Marietta) played an elite level first half, especially shooting the ball," said Hunt. "I told the guys at halftime, "we just took their best punch, and we are still standing." Obviously they are very good team, but I don't we were urgent enough getting to their shooters and did a much better job in the second half."
Marietta finished the first half shooting 22-of-35 (61.1 percent) from the field and 8-of-12 (66.7 percent) from beyond the arc.
Wilmington fell behind by as much as 20 in the second half before mounting one last gasp.
"We kept grinding, playing as group and staying together," said Hunt. "Against a team like that, if you splinter, you will definitely get your doors blown off. I was proud of our intensity level and sustained effort. Now we just have to figure out how to win these games at the end."
Four different players scored as Wilmington tallied 16 of the next 18 points to pull within six points. But another offensive lull hampered WC's ability to pull off the upset.
The loss leaves Wilmington (19-4) 4-12 in the Ohio Athletic Conference and in need of two wins over the final two games to qualify for the postseason tournament. The Fightin' Quakers travel to Capital 7 p.m. Wednesday before returning home 3 p.m. Saturday against Baldwin Wallace.
"You can't go 2-0, unless you go 1-0, so we are going to take it one game at a time, one practice at a time, one play at a time," said Hunt. "If our guys come out and play with the energy level and intensity as we did today – we have a good chance to go 2-0."
Senior D.J. Iles (Fayetteville, OH/Fayetteville Perry) led the team with 18 points and five assists, while sophomore Andrew Russell (Columbus, OH/Central Crossing) added 11 points. Backcourt mates Kevin Lewis (Cincinnati, OH/Clark Montessori) and Will Patrick (Chester, PA/Pickerington Central [OH]) led the team with six rebounds each.