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Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Nick Richards against Philadelphia, taken by Frank Stallworth.
NEWARK, Del. - - The Wilmington University men's basketball team held off a hard charging Philadelphia team in the second half, claiming a 70-64 victory in the team's Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference opener on Saturday afternoon at the WU Athletics Complex.
Leading by as many as 14 points in the second half, the Wildcats (5-3, 1-0 CACC) had to hold off the Rams (5-3, 2-1 CACC) as they climbed back to as close as one-point late in the game on Saturday.
Already leading 29-23 at the half, the Wildcats started strong in the second half to widen the margin. Tajee Almon had a large say in the Wildcats' 9-2 run early in the half, scoring seven of the team's points, including the final five to take a 39-28 lead with 16:47 showing on the clock.
Nick Richards put the Wildcats ahead, 44-34, with a three-pointer, sparking a quick 7-0 spurt to lead 48-34 with 13:16 left in regulation. Brian Adkins made a layup before the full-court pressure forced a turnover and another Richards' layup during the run for the Wildcats' largest lead of the game.
But the Rams wouldn't go away, springing a 13-3 run to close the gap to within 53-49, as the three-pointer began for fall for the Rams. With the lead still at four points, Tyaire Ponzo-Meek went on a personal 6-0 run over the next 2:33 of game time to regain a 10-point advantage at 64-54. But the Rams continued to push back, scoring the next seven points en route to a 10-1 rally to claw to within a single point at 65-64 with 2:12 on the clock.
Omari Dill-Pettiford hit a baseline jumper over the out stretched arm of Philadelphia's big-man Eric Long with 1:48 to play, turning into the dagger that kept the Rams down. Kaison Randolph missed two shots and a free throw in the next minute, allowing the Wildcats to hit 3-of-4 from the foul line to close out the match, 70-64.
Richards scored 17 points while adding a team high nine rebounds for the Wildcats, hitting a pair of three-pointers. Ponzo-Meek came off the bench to add 17 points for the Wildcats, hitting three three-pointers in the win. Brian Adkins scored 11 points while grabbing seven boards and Almon finished with 11 points, seven rebounds, and three blocked shots.
With the win in the nightcap of the CACC doubleheader, Saturday was the first time in the history of the series that the Wildcats defeated the Ram in both women's and men's basketball on the same day.
The Wildcats will look to extend their good start in CACC play on Tuesday when they head to USciences for an 8:00 p.m. tip-off.