Press Release written by Mitchell Coll
Video Recap at bottom of page
NEWARK, Del. - - The Wilmington University men's basketball team wins a thriller over nationally ranked No. 25 Dominican, 79-74, in a cross-divisional Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference matchup this Saturday afternoon, at the WU Athletics Complex.
The win is believed to be the second time in Wilmington's NCAA era to knock off a nationally ranked opponent. The first time dating back to November 22, 2017, versus #19 ranked Shippensburg University, which also took place at the WU Athletics Complex. Graduate guard Danny Walsh was the only current member on the 2017-18 team.
The exciting contest kept fans on the edge of their seats for the duration of the game. The seesaw battle between the Wildcats (8-17, 5-10 CACC) and the Chargers (16-5, 9-4 CACC) consisted of nine lead changes, and nine times, the score was tied.
The back-and-forth battle started right away, but freshman guard, Ethan Tarte was able to find the basket first for the 'Cats off of a find from Danny Walsh. After a pair of free throws made by junior guard Justin Thomas, sophomore guard Caleb Matthews and Tarte both connected on shots from beyond the ark.
The Wildcats trailed by at most 6 points in the first half and saw a deficit of down 5 points, four times in the first half, but in true Wildcat fashion, they kept on clawing back. The 'Cats down five points almost midway through the half, saw a nice defensive stop thanks to junior guard Randy Rickards, who was able to register a steal, which turned into freshman forward/center Nalik Veasley earning a trip to the line, sinking both shots.
Team leader Danny Walsh tends to shine the brightest against top-tier opponents. Walsh was able to change the momentum that had swung the Chargers way closing in on the end of the first half. The Wildcats had 1.6 seconds left in the first half was the ball to be inbounded to the right of the scores table. Walsh was able to loop around a set of screens on a beautiful play design by Head Coach, Dan Burke. The screens helped him get the small window of separation he needed. Then, Matthews, the inbounder, put it right in his left hand and Walsh was able to finish the buzzer-beater, over his defender, banking it home and the Wildcats went into the locker room with spirits high, only trailing by three, 43-40.
Coming out of the locker room, Rickards decided to keep the offensive energy going, with a dunk off of a bounce pass from Matthews, closing the deficit to within one. After tying the game at 15:34 at 49 apiece thanks to a Justin Thomas jump-shot off of a find from Caleb Matthews, the Wildcats were able to string together a 13-5 run capped off by a three-point jumper by Matthews off of a find from sophomore guard Taalib Holloman and then a layup by Danny Walsh from an assist by Matthews. At the end of the run, the score was 62-54 with 11:19 left to play. This run proved to be the difference-maker because the 'Cats were able to maintain the lead the rest of the way against a Chargers team that would not go down easy.
Down to the last minutes, the Wildcats saw clutch jump shots by Veasley, Thomas, Walsh, and Rickards. All connected to withhold any comeback by the Chargers. Credit is due to Coach Burke and his staff for emphasizing the free-throw line that was tremendously improved Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats as a team shot 35 percent better, compared to their previous game at the line, which is a statistic that matters most down the stretch.
Danny Walsh led the way with 20 points, 3 assists, 4 rebounds, and two steals. Justin Thomas finished with 18 points, 4 assists, and 5 rebounds. Matthews finished with 15 points, 4 assists, 6 boards, and played the most minutes for the 'Cats with 37. Freshman Nalik Veasley with the all-important spark the Wildcats needed coming off the bench. Veasley finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. With the win, the Wildcats maintain the crucial fourth spot in the Central Athletic Collegiate Conference South Division.
The Wildcats have one more home regular-season game left, as it is senior night. The Wildcats will take on Georgian Court University Tuesday, February 15th at 8:00 PM. In honor of the seniors, the game will be a "blackout", the 'Cats will be dressed in their all-black uniform and encourage the fans to wear their black WilmU gear or any black clothing to help honor the senior class.