Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Tyaire Ponzo-Meek against Pace.
BALTIMORE, Md. - - A second half comeback ran out of steam for the Wilmington University men's basketball team as NCAA Division I Morgan State pulled away late to give the Wildcats their first loss of the year, 88-73, on Thursday night at Hill Field House.
Playing the second game of a back-to-back, and their fourth game in six days to start the season, the Wildcats (3-1) got off to a slow start in front of a larger crowd and arena then they are used to playing in. The Bears (1-2) scored the game's first six points and held a 10-1 lead in the first five minutes of action.
The first half continued to go in favor of the home team, as the Bears used a 6-0 spurt en route to a 14-3 run to turn a 16-10 lead into a 30-13 advantage with six minutes left in the first half. The lead continued to balloon for the Bears, growing as large as 21 points as late as 43-22 with 2:29 left in the opening half. The Wildcats closed the half on an 8-4 run to head into the locker room down 47-30.
The legs started to loosen up for the Wildcats following the halftime break as they started to make their move when trailing 57-42. The run started with a three-pointer from Drew Johnson II, followed by back-to-back layups from Nick Richards and Tyaire Ponzo-Meek. Tajee Almon got out on the break and put home a pass from Ponzo-Meek to cut the deficit to 57-51 with 11:47 to play in regulation.
The Bears widened the margin back out to 62-51 following a timeout, but Richards threw down a dunk to recharge the Wildcats. The Wildcats followed with a steal on the defensive end and a Ponzo-Meek three-pointer to once again bring the visitors to within 62-56 with 9:37 showing on the clock.
But the Bears were able to keep the Wildcats at an arms' length, scoring the next four points and not allowing the visitors to come any closer for the rest of the game. Johnson laid one home to cut the deficit to 70-62 with 5:17 to play, but the Bears hit two from the foul line, converted a layup, and turned a turnover into a three-pointer to blow the lead back out to 77-62 with 4:14 left.
The Wildcats got to work on the glass, outrebounding the Bears 46-43 for the game, including a 23-12 advantage on the offensive boards. The Wildcats were uncharacteristic in turning the ball over 23 times on Thursday, and getting seven of their shots blocked by the NCAA Division I team. That led to a 25-13 advantage for the Bears on points off turnovers.
Ponzo-Meek led the Wildcats with 23 points and five assists, but needed 18 shots to get his points. He also went 9-of-10 from the foul line in the game. Richards added 15 points for the Wildcats, shooting 5-of-15 for from the floor. Johnson was the final Wildcat in double digits with 11 points, hitting three three-pointers in the game. Almon led the team with 11 rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass.
The Wildcats have nine days off before returning to the court on November 26. The Wildcats will face off against Bloomsburg in another nonconference contest, returning to the WU Athletics Complex for a 3:00 p.m. scheduled tip-off.