Copyright 2016; Wilmington University. All rights reserved. File photo of Omari Dill-Pettiford by Frank Stallworth.
CALDWELL, N.J. - - In a back and forth game which featured 18 lead changes and 13 ties, it was Caldwell that had the last punch as the Cougars downed the Wilmington University men's basketball team, 73-67, in Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference action on Saturday afternoon at the Newman Center.
The lead was never greater than six points for either side, but it was the Cougars that delivered the knockout punch with under a minute to play. The Wildcats' Sam Sanders hit a pair from the foul line to give the visitors a 67-66 lead but the Cougars' Ahmad Harrison hit a three-pointer from the right wing with 52 seconds left to give the home team the lead for good.
Tied 30-30 at the halftime break, the second half was led by freshman Omari Dill-Pettiford, as he scored all 14 of his points in the final 20 minutes. Dill-Pettiford answered a Caldwell three-pointer with a three of his own with 15:38 to play to give the Wildcats a 38-37 lead. Drew Johnson II followed that up with another three-pointer, putting the visitors up four with 14:18 showing on the clock.
Dill-Pettiford pushed the lead to five points with a pair of free throws before regaining the Wilmington lead with another three-pointer, 48-45, with 11:26 left.
But the Cougars wouldn't go away, as they used a 7-0 run of their own to grab a 57-54 lead, as Salvatore Vitello hit back-to-back three-pointers for the home team with 6:48 to play.
The Wildcats fought back once again, getting a three-pointer from Johnson before three straight points from Tyaire Ponzo-Meek gave Wilmington the lead, 60-59, with 4:10 remaining. But now trailing by four points, Sam Sanders took over, hitting a three-pointer before converting two from the foul line to put Wilmington ahead 67-66 with 1:14 left in the game.
The Cougars didn't waste much time on being down, as Harrison was left wide-open on the right wing after Dawan Lighty drove the baseline on the opposite side. Harrison would hit the three with 52 seconds left and the Wildcats wouldn't be able to recover.
Ponzo-Meek missed a jumper on the Wildcats next possession, but came up with a steal still trailing by two points with 26 seconds left. But the CACC leading scorer couldn't find the magic offensively, turning the ball back over to the Cougars with 17 seconds to play.
Ponzo-Meek finished with a game high 21 points and five assists, while also matching a game high with seven rebounds. Dill-Pettiford scored all 14 points in the second half while coming off the bench and Johnson II finished with 13 points while hitting 4-of-5 from three-point territory.
The Wildcats will face their third straight CACC North Division foe for their next contest, as they welcome Post to the WU Athletics Complex on Tuesday. The men will follow the women's game and start at approximately 8:00 p.m.