Brendon Ganaway (SR/Houston, Texas) wasn’t ready to say his stellar second half play was a coming out party.
“I had the opportunity given to me and just took full advantage of it, that’s all,” Ganaway said Saturday night following Kansas Wesleyan’s 91-79 victory over Sterling in their Kansas Conference opener at Mabee Arena.
Ganaway, a reserve guard, scored all of his team-best 16 points in the second half, 11 during a pivotal 2-minute, 7-second span in which the Coyotes outscored the Warriors 16-4.
“I had a good warm up, my teammates found me in the transition and I just finished,” he said.
Ganaway transferred to Wesleyan from NCAA Division I Southern (La.) before the 2018-19 season but played in just 15 games and averaged 6.0 points.
A discussion with Coach Anthony Monson got him on the right track.
“Coached talked to me over the summer, told me to come back a new person, come back locked in, come back more mature and that’s what I did,” Ganaway said.
The Coyotes led 43-41 at halftime and were clinging to a 58-55 lead with midway through the second half when Ganaway scored to make it 60-55. After an Andre Harris (SR/Sioux City, Iowa) basket Ganaway took over, scoring nine consecutive points on two baskets and five free throws that gave the Coyotes a 71-57 advantage with just over 8 minutes left. An A.J. Range field goal and Harris free throw capped the run and extended the lead to 74-59 with 7 minutes remaining.
“Two guys, I thought, really keyed the run,” Monson said. “Brendan Ganaway, was really big the second half. He was kind of going through the motions the first half, I thought, and he focused and locked in the second half.
“The other was when we put the freshman Savian Edwards (FR/Topeka, Kan.) in. There’s really nothing that shows up in the stat sheet but he got a big tie-up and jump ball and takes care of the ball and makes simple plays, keeping it moving. Sometimes you need a guy out there who’s not going to make a mistake.”
Five other Coyotes also scored in double figures – James Brooks (SR/Frontenac, Kan.) had 15 points, Range 13, Harris 12, White 11 and Peyton Hatter (SO/Andover, Kan.) 10. KWU shot 44.8 percent for the game (30 of 67), including 10 of 28 from 3-point range, and was 21 of 27 at the free throw line.
Range also had 11 rebounds as KWU (4-2 overall) out-rebounded Sterling 42-38. White added six assists and four steals, and Brooks four assists and three steals.
Sterling (2-5, 0-2 KCAC) shot 41.7 percent the first half (15 of 36) and 35.7 percent the second (10 of 28). The Warriors had six turnovers at halftime but finished with 20 that led to 27 points as KWU cranked up the defensive pressure the final 20 minutes.
Isaac Ostrosky led Sterling 19 points while JaMiah Windom-Haynes and Saleem Holden each had 14 and Edo Okafor 12.
“(Monson) told us our defense was sub-par (the first half) and to just go out and handle business,” Ganaway said. “We just played defense.”
Monson still wasn’t thrilled with the overall defensive effort, though.
“I’m looking at a scoreboard that doesn’t reflect what we usually see,” he said of the lofty points totals. “I’ll take 91 points any day of the week, I know we’re better offensively.
“We’ve got to find a way to be better defensively. If we do and we can put points on the board like this we become a very, very dangerous team. We need to find that balance and that rhythm.”
Eleven Coyotes, three of them freshmen, played at least 5 minutes during key portions of the game.
“Our guys have done a good job realizing it’s not about me, it’s about we,” Monson said. “I know that’s an old cliché but at the end of the day those are the things that help a team in a championship.”
Wesleyan lost a non-conference game at Baker on Monday and an exhibition game against NCAA Division II-member Emporia State on Tuesday. Ganaway said it was good to taste victory again.
“It’s huge just to get us on the right track,” he said. “We know we’re a good team, we know what we can do when we lock in. It’s just a big win for us.”
The Coyotes travel to Hillsboro for a conference contest against Tabor on Wednesday, starting at 8 p.m. The Bluejays lost to McPherson 83-77 Saturday night in McPherson and are 2-3 overall, 0-2 in the KCAC.
*Photos by Tanner Colvin*