Hartford, Conn. – Senior captain forward Shay Ajayi (Brooklyn, N.Y.) lit up the stat sheet with 17 points, a game-high 11 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks to lead the Trinity College Bantams to a 76-62 victory over the visiting Wesleyan University Cardinals in New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) men’s basketball action on Ogrodnik Court in Oosting Gymnasium this afternoon. Trinity improves to 11-4 overall and 3-0 in the NESCAC with its fourth win in a row, while the Cardinals drop to 12-4 overall and 1-3 in the league. Trailing, 32-27, at intermission, Trinity outscored Wesleyan, 49-30, in the second half, avenging a NESCAC Semifinal setback to the Cardinals in last year’s post-season, the last Bantam home loss, and staying perfect this winter in Oosting Gym at 7-0. The Bantams host Keene State on Monday, January 18 at 7 p.m. and Wesleyan entertains No. 9-ranked Amherst the same day at the same time.
Trinity fell behind, 10-2, early and did not take its first lead until midway through the second half, 47-45, on a put-back by junior forward Ed Ogundeko (Brooklyn, N.Y.). The game remained tight for the next two minutes and an old-fashioned three-point play by senior forward Rashid Epps (New York, N.Y.) gave the Cardinals a 52-51 edge at the 8:46 mark. Senior captain guard Jaquann Starks (Hartford, Conn.) ignited an 8-0 Bantam run with back-to-back jumpers from the left wing, however, to put Trinity ahead, 59-52, with six minutes on the clock. The Bantam defense took over from there, holding Wesleyan without a field goal for a 5:54 stretch until a trey in the closing seconds. Trinity made seven of eight shots from the foul line to preserve the victory.
Wesleyan had led throughout the first half, holding Trinity to 29-percent shooting from the field, while the Bantams stayed in the game by forcing 13 first-half turnovers. Epps led all scorers at the break with 10 points and Trinity senior captain guard Rick Naylor (Sudbury, Vt.) had eight. Trinity fought its way back early in the second half, tying the score at 34-all with 18:10 on the clock thanks to a drive by Ajayi, but four consecutive free throws by Cardinal junior center Joseph Kuo (New York, N.Y.) pushed the visitors’ advantage back to five points at 43-38 with 14:06 remaining. Ajayi capped off a 7-2 Trinity spurt with a three-pointer to tie it at 45-45 before Ogundeko put Trinity ahead for the first time.
Four Bantams scored in double digits, as Naylor finished with 13 points, Ogundeko added 12, and sophomore swingman Eric Gendron (Merrimack, N.H.) contributed 10 off the bench. Ogundeko also notched nine boards, two steals, and two blocks, while Starks dished a team-high five assists. Epps paced the Cardinals with 17 points, five rebounds, and a pair of blocks, while Kuo added 10 points and a team-high nine boards, and senior captain Jack Mackey (Warwick, N.Y.) registered five assists.