Copyright 2015; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Ta'Vaune Griffin against Dominican.
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. - - It was a tale of two halves for the Wilmington University men's basketball team, but it was a familiar face that down the stretch that powered the Wildcats past Bloomsburg, 81-78, on Tuesday night inside Nelson Field House.
It was the big men, and particularly Ta'Vaune Griffin, that led the Wildcats (4-1) in the first half before the guards took over in the second half. Bloomsburg (3-2) held as large as an eight-point lead in the second half before yet another late game Wilmington comeback.
Despite a career game and outstanding first half from Griffin (career high 22 points and career high tying 16 rebounds), the Wildcats still went into the halftime break down 39-35. Griffin scored 16 of his points and grabbed eight rebounds in the first half alone while shooting 7-of-9 from the floor. The Wildcats led 25-24 with 5:02 left to play, but the Huskies used runs of 7-2 and 6-0 to lead 37-29 with 2:30 left.
It seemed as though the Wildcats gained some of the momentum back at the end of the half with back-to-back layups from Griffin, but the Huskies were able to go the length of the court in six seconds and lay one home at the buzzer for the 39-35 lead.
The Huskies held the Wildcats two leading scorers in Tyaire Ponzo-Meek and Brian Adkins to a combined eight points in the first half, but the duo wouldn't be held down in the second half, which is starting to be a familiar scene in the early part of this season.
The Wildcats fought their way back through the first portion of the second half to take a lead, 47-46, on a fast break dunk by Adkins. But the Huskies responded and eventually used its free throw shooting to take a 67-61 lead with 7:45 left. The Huskies scored six straight of their points from the line, and capped off the 8-2 run with a steal and layup to produce their largest lead of the game, 69-61 with 6:57 showing on the clock.
Omari Dill-Pettiford started a quick 5-0 run with a layup followed by a Griffin rebound and push ahead to Adkins for a three-point, cutting the deficit to 72-70 with 3:49 to play.
An offensive rebound and putback layup by Griffin brought the Wildcats all the way back to tie the game 73-73, before Ponzo-Meek layup put the visitors ahead, 75-74, with only 2:15 remaining in regulation.
Bloomsburg tied the game at 75 with a free throw before Ponzo-Meek tried a dagger shot with layup at 1:06 to play. But the Huskies were unfazed and nailed a three-pointer on the ensuing possession to retake a 78-77 lead.
Drawing the shotclock down, Ponzo-Meek got the ball back from the wing and drove to the rim, using the backboard to convert the runner with 22 seconds left, giving the Wildcats the lead, 79-78. Ponzo-Meek then grabbed the defensive rebound on the other end as the Huskies layup opportunity was off the mark with eight seconds to play. The junior hit both ends of his free throws to seal the victory.
Ponzo-Meek scored 20 of his team high 24 in the second half while Adkins scored 14 of his 18 points in the second stanza. Griffin was the final Wildcat in double digits with his 22.
Dill-Pettiford pulled in 12 rebounds off the bench while Paul Medlin helped defensively with four blocked shots.
The 4-1 start matches the best start to a season in program history, tying the 2011-12 team.
After five games on the road to start the season, the Wildcats return to the WU Athletics Complex for their 2015-16 home opener on Saturday. They welcome Arkansas Fort-Smith to Newark for a 1:00 p.m. start.