WESTERVILLE, Ohio -- The Big Red men's basketball team held off a late charge from Otterbein en route to a 66-59 win that moved Denison to a perfect 4-0 on the season.
After surrendering the first seven points of the contest, DU rattled off seven straight tallies to tie the game four and a half minutes into the opening period. After a tightly contested 11 minutes, the Big Red surged over the final 4:17 to take a double-digit lead into the locker room.
Michael Howard gave the Cardinals a 23-22 lead with 4:39 to play in the half. Senior Bret Woolard followed with a layup 22 seconds later that jump-started a 12-0 run to close the stanza. Jett Speelman added to the lead with a dunk on the ensuing DU possession before knocking down a pair at the charity stripe. With 96 seconds to play, the senior post connecting on two more attempts at the foul line to push the Denison lead to seven. Senior Matthew Bauer closed out the run with back-to-back layups to close out the half.
The Big Red maintained a double-digit advantage for the first 15 minutes of the second half, leading by as many as 17 on two separate occasions. Senior point guard David Meurer gave Denison their first 17-point lead with 8:35 to play after converting off a pass from Garrett Collier. Roughly a minute later, Collier matched DU's largest lead of the game with a jumper. Otterbein tried to mount a rally behind a 19-6 burst that shrunk the deficit to 59-55 with 52 seconds left in regulation. However, a 7-for-8 performance at the free throw line over the final 47 seconds securing the seven-point victory.
Speelman led all scorers with 19 points after going 5-for-6 from inside the arc and a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line. The senior also pulled down four rebounds in 25 minutes of action. Bauer chipped in 11 points and five boards off the bench, while Meurer added 10 points, five assists and four rebounds. Woolard paced DU on the glass with eight rebounds to go along with eight points.
Bryan Mackenzie paced the Cardinal offense with 15 points, while Nick Koontz had a game-high six steals. Howard and Connor Clark had six rebounds each.
Denison shot 49 percent (23-for-47) from the field compared to Otterbein's 33-percent (21-for-63) conversion rate from the floor. The Big Red were plus-11 on the glass, outrebounding the Cards 40-29. DU outscored Otterbein in the paint 38-26.
The Big Red improves to a perfect 4-0 on the year, while the Cardinals fall to 1-3. Denison will open North Coast Athletic Conference play on Wednesday when they travel to seventh-ranked Wooster. Tip-off from Timken Gymnasium is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.