Denison got back into the win column with an 81-71 victory over Hanover College in the consolation game of the 2015 Smokey Ballenger Tournament hosted by Otterbein University on Saturday in Westerville, Ohio.
In the opening 20 minutes, the two squad exchanged the lead three times and were tied on four different occasions. The Big Red had a three-point advantage twice inside the final two minutes, but a layup by Levi Buck with 23 seconds on the clock gave DU a one-point edge at the intermission.
Much like the first half, the second period was a tightly contested battle. After five second-half lead changes in the opening 15 minutes of the stanza, the game was tied for the 10th time at 63-63 thanks to a Jett Speelman layup with 5:48 left in regulation. Denison regained the lead 35 seconds later when junior David Meurer knocked down a pair at the foul line.
On the other end of the floor, V.J. Billups was whistled for an offensive foul that gave the ball back to the Big Red. DU took advantage of the extra possession when Meurer grabbed an offensive board and kicked the ball out to Speelman who drained a triple. After exchanging buckets, Denison maintained a five-point lead at 70-65.
Hanover closed the margin to 70-66 after Michael Van Kleunen hit his first of two free throws. Van Kleunen was unsuccessful in his second attempt, which ultimately set a tone over the final three minutes. Billups had a chance to make it a one-possession game 33 seconds later, but he came up empty in two attempts at the line. On the Big Red's next trip down the floor, Meurer buried a three that extended the lead to seven with 1:44 on the clock.
After a Panther timeout, Van Kleunen answered with a trey of his own. With 55 seconds to go, Meurer knocked down both free throws to rebuild a six-point lead. Wes McKinney wasted no time driving the lane and scoring to answer Meurer's foul shots. McKinney also drew a foul, but Hanover was once again unable to make it a one-possession contest.
Meurer added his sixth and seventh-consecutive points for DU to push the lead to 77-71 with 29 seconds left on the game clock. The junior guard smartly fouled Billups on the other end to keep him from attempting a three. The foul paid off big for Denison as the Panthers continued to struggle at the line, going 0-for-6 in their final six attempts at the charity stripe following Billups' unsuccessful trip with 18 seconds to play. Darius White knocked down two more free throws for the Big Red, while Speelman clinched the 10-point win with a fastbreak layup.
In addition to converting 42 percent (24-for-57) from the field 44 percent (10-for-23) from beyond the arc, the Big Red also went 23-for-29 (79 percent) from the free throw line which included knocking down 15-of-16 tries (94 percent) in the second half. Denison outrebounded Hanover 42-32 and turned 18 offensive boards into 22 points.
Speelman led all scorers with 25 points after going 7-for-11 from the field, 3-for-4 from 3-point range and a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line. He also grabbed seven rebounds in 31 minutes. Meurer came off the bench to score 17 points and dish out six assists, while White added 10 tallies. Matthew Bauer and Devon Pitts each grabbed 10 boards to lead the Big Red on the glass. After the game, Speelman was named to the Smokey Ballenger All-Tournament team.
The Panthers has four players score in double figures led by Billups and Van Kleunen who each recorded 18 points. McKinney had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Buck logged 10 tallies and six assists. Hanover shot 48 percent (28-for-59) from the field, but were a dreadful 41 percent at the foul line (7-for-17).
Denison (2-1) continues its stretch of road games on Tuesday (Nov. 24) when they travel to Case Western Reserve for a 7 p.m. tip-off.