Coyote rally comes up just short as KWU falls in thriller with Bethany

LINDSBORG – Kansas Wesleyan men’s coach Anthony Monson was pleased with his team’s resilience and determination but as has been the case of late it wasn’t quite enough.

The shorthanded Coyotes erased a 20-point first-half deficit and got within one late in the game. But a technical foul and errant 3-point shot attempt in the final 51 seconds resulted in a 67-64 Kansas Conference loss to Bethany Monday night inside Hahn Gymnasium.

Because of COVID-19 concerns the Coyotes were minus two starting players, a top reserve, went through a 12-day layoff and were able to have just one full practice before the game.

“I told the guys I’m proud of the effort being undermanned and one day of practice before showing up here and playing,” Monson said on his postgame radio show. “But it doesn’t make the loss feel any differently, it’s just another loss by under four points and it’s tough right now.”

The setback was the seventh in a row and dropped them to 7-12 overall, 5-10 in conference play. The seven losses have been by a total of 27 points – the last four by four points or less including an 83-82 loss at Oklahoma Wesleyan January 27 in their last outing before going into quarantine.

Micah Lovett (FR/Tulsa, Okla.), making his first career start, led KWU with 13 points – 10 in the first half – and backup center Trey Duffey (SO/Topeka, Kan.) had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds.

“You can’t dig yourself a 20-point hole, no matter what’s going on,” Monson said. “We were down nine at halftime (41-32) and really battled back with a group of guys who typically don’t play that many minutes on the court together.

“When guys do exactly what you want them to good things happen. Guys were playing within their roles and when they do that good things happen. The first half we didn’t play within our roles very well. It’s just finding that team that puts that rhythm together and plays together.”

Wesleyan trailed 57-47 with 11 minutes left but battled back and got within 63-61 on a Duffey three-point play with 4:03 left.

Isiah Saenz, who led Bethany with 19 points, gave the Swedes a 65-61 lead with a basket with 1:17 left before Lovett buried a 3-pointer from the left wing with 52 seconds remaining that trimmed the deficit to one.

But Lovett was assessed a technical foul for taunting the crowd after the shot and Jalen Washington made one of two free throws with 51 seconds left.

Gabe Mack (JR/Milwaukee, Wis.) got an open look at the basket on a 3-pointer on KWU’s next possession, but the shot wouldn’t fall. Malcom Clayton sank one of two free throws with 5.7 seconds left for the final point.

“The technical was huge, changes the game a little bit,” Monson said. “We’ve got to do a better job controlling our emotions as a team. You can’t get two technicals in a game that’s decided by three points (Mack was assessed one in the first half).

“But at the end of the day we’re down two and maybe got the most open look you could ask for and it either goes in or it doesn’t and unfortunately it didn’t go in. There’s nothing wrong with that, we executed what we wanted to, but it just wasn’t our night tonight.”

The Coyotes were hampered by 21 turnovers that led to 33 Bethany points; the Swedes had 19 turnovers that resulted in 15 points.

Both teams shot 52 percent from the field, but Bethany was 15 of 21 at the foul line while Wesleyan was 9 of 16.

The Coyotes play Tabor at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Hillsboro and return home for a game against York at 7 p.m. Saturday inside Mabee Arena. Tabor’s 8-8 in conference play after defeating Southwestern 81-62 Saturday in Winfield.