Copyright 2015; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. Photo of Tyaire Ponzo-Meek against UAFS taken by Frank Stallworth.
NEWARK, Del. - - With possession and the chance to win at both the end of regulation and at the end of overtime, the Wilmington University men's basketball team couldn't find the bottom of the net as the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith came away with an 82-80 overtime victory at the WU Athletics Complex on Saturday afternoon.
In the thrilling home opener, the Wildcats' (4-2) went blow for blow with Arkansas-Fort Smith (5-1), hitting 11 three-pointers to the Lions' seven. The Wildcats finished 33-for-75 (44 percent) from the floor while the Lions went 33-for-72 (45.8 percent). The game came down to the foul line, however, where the Wildcats could only go 3-for-10 for the game.
The firing range was wide open in the first half as the Wildcats came out of the gates and hit 7-for-16 from beyond the three-point arc, led by Omari Dill-Pettiford's 3-for-4 performance. Tyaire Ponzo-Meek went 2-for-5 from deep in the half while Brian Adkins and Joseph Richards each added one.
It seemed as though the Lions answered every Wildcats three-pointer with a three of their own in the first half. Richards hit his lone three of the half to bring the Wildcats to within 40-38, but just 12 seconds later the Lions retaliated with a three of their own to go back up by five points with 1:08 to play. The Wildcats' defense stepped up its pressure down the stretch, getting back to back steals and fast break dunks from Adkins and Drew Johnson II, with Johnson's coming at the buzzer to cut the Lions lead to just one, 43-42, at the break.
Adkins came out of the break and hit a three-pointer to give the Wildcats a 45-43 lead. The teams played even basketball for the next nine minutes, trading buckets all the way to 55-54 in favor of the Lions with 12:39 to play in regulation. Dill-Pettiford and Richards hit back-to-back jumpers before Dill-Pettiford hit another three-pointer to move the Wildcats ahead, 61-55. The Lions ended the run with a layup, but Ponzo-Meek answered with another three-pointer, giving the Wildcats their largest lead of the game, 64-57, with 10:25 to play.
Ponzo-Meek put in a fastbreak layup to hold off the Lions at 68-64, but the visitors then went on a 9-0 spurt over the next 2:19 to move back ahead, 73-68.
Ta'Vaune Griffin ended the Wildcat's draught with a layup and another jumper to bring the home team to within 73-72 with 1:58 showing on the clock. Following a Griffin block at the defensive end, Johnson hit a three-pointer from the left win on the next possession to put the Wildcats ahead, 75-73, with 1:20 to play.
A turnover gave the ball back to the Wildcats but Ponzo-Meek's drive rimmed out, giving life back to the Lions. Dusan Stojanovic was fouled and calmly hit a pair from the line to tie the game at 75 with 30 seconds left. Waiting for the last shot, Ponzo-Meek's three-pointer also rimmed out, sending the game into overtime.
The Lions opened the overtime period with a DaVaunta Thomas three-pointer followed by a Thomas one-handed alley-oops for the quick five-point lead. Ponzo-Meek responded with five straight points of his own, hitting a layup, making one of two from the line, and putting in another layup to tie the match at 80 with 1:31 left in overtime.
But Darrius Parker tipped in an offensive rebound and Ponzo-Meek missed the front end of a one-and one at the other end, keeping the Lions in front, 82-80. The Lions missed their first in a one-on-one to once again give the Wildcats the chance to win at the buzzer in overtime.
This time Ponzo-Meek's three-pointer was highly contested, but he still got a shot off at the buzzer. The ball hit the back of the rim and stayed out, giving the two-point victory to the visitors.
Ponzo-Meek finished with a game high 31 points, scoring 19 points in the second half and overtime. Dill-Pettiford poured in 19 off the bench, hitting four three-pointers. Griffin scored 10 points while grabbing seven rebounds and adding two blocks.
The Wildcats have little time to dwell on the loss, as they return to action on Sunday at the WU Athletics Complex. The Wildcats welcome Shippensburg to Newark for a 2:00 p.m. tip-off.