Coyotes cruise to eighth straight win downing Eagles 90-71

The start of Saturday’s game was not what Kansas Wesleyan head coach Anthony Monson was looking for.The finish was.The Coyotes overcame an 11-point first half deficit and pulled away in the second half to cruise to a 90-71 win over the Avila Eagles inside Mabee Arena.Monson wasn’t exactly pleased with his team’s early first half efforts. Shots weren’t falling and the defense was struggling.“Anytime you look and see we are struggling that’s because we’re not getting stops,” Monson said. “When we get to trading buckets back and forth we’re not good at that. When we start shooting quick and we start settling for bad shots. If you’re not hitting shots, then you find yourself down like we did tonight.”Trailing 28-17 with 8:15 left in the first, the Coyotes made their move. Six straight by the Coyotes capped by Alex Littlejohn’s steal and bucket got it to a five-point difference with 6:49 to go.Avila pushed it back out to an eight-point difference, but the Coyotes scored eight of the next nine, cutting it to a 1-point difference at 34-33 on a 3-pointer by Izaiah Hale with 3:54 left in the half.Jun Murdock’s bucket with 2:18 left put the Coyotes up 37-36, giving Wesleyan a lead that would not be relinquished the rest of the day. Alex Littlejohn’s 3-point play with five seconds left before the half sent the Coyotes into the break leading 44-36.The Coyotes controlled the second half, thanks in part to an outstanding effort from Hale.Hale poured in 18 of his career high 27 points, going 7 of 9 from the field and 4 of 5 from long range in the second half, helping the Coyotes shoot 62.5 percent in the second half (15 of 24).Monson pointed out that he knew Hale was capable of a big night.“I told coach (Jordan) Murdock he’s going to have a night where he goes for like 30 right after Christmas break and it was great to see him do that,” Monson said. “We’ve seen him hit shots time and time again in the preseason and practice. He can really shoot it, he just got going tonight. Once he gets going he’s really tough.“I think he did a really good job of not forcing anything even though he was hot and he was on. He still lets the game come to him and he made the plays that we needed to. He’s a big reason why we got up to that lead and were able to maintain it.”Hale concurred, pointing out that Wesleyan’s defense allowed the offense to get going and into a flow.“Whenever we started getting some more stops, that really helped us because we like to get some momentum and some flow going,” he said.Hale put the Coyotes up 17 with 15:37 to go in the game on an alley-oop from Jun Murdock.“I went for the spin and I threw it to Jun. I knew Jun was going to look out for me, I knew he was going to throw it so I just jumped for it,” Hale said. “While I was on the rim I was pointing at Jun and telling him good pass.”Avila got back within 11 with 8:03 left but the Coyotes slammed the door closed with a 9-0 run capped by Easton Hunter’s triple with 5:55 left that put KWU up 20 at 78-58.From there, the Coyotes held court.Hale’s 27 points led all scorers in the game and was one of four in double figures for the Coyotes who shot a blistering 55.9 percent from the field in the game (33 of 59). Murdock had 21 to go along with six assists. While Littlejohn finished with 17 points and had nine rebounds and four assists. Thurbil Bile had 12 points, five blocks and four assists.Wesleyan is back in action next week, as the Coyotes head to Sterling on Wednesday to take on the Warriors, then host conference co-leader Oklahoma Wesleyan on Saturday at 8 p.m. inside Mabee Arena.