Coyotes down Braves behind Kaplan’s career high 27 points

OTTAWA – Cory Kaplan (JR/Merritt Island, Fla.) didn’t play well Wednesday during Kansas Wesleyan’s 60-55 loss to Kansas Conference leader Oklahoma Wesleyan, missing all five of his shots and failing to score.


Three days later he got back on track with a jaw-dropping and record-setting performance.


Kaplan scored 27 a career-best points, missing just two shots in the process, grabbed six rebounds and had three assists as the 13th-ranked Coyotes rolled to an 87-76 KCAC victory over Ottawa on Saturday night inside Wilson Field House.


KWU improved to 21-3 overall, 15-3 in the conference and 10-2 on the road.


“Cory didn’t have a great game at Oklahoma Wesleyan but bounces back, goes 10 for 12 (shooting) and 27,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said on his postgame radio show. “He’s starting to find his rhythm a little bit too which will be nice for us.”


Kaplan scored 13 in the first half on 5 of 5 shooting – 3 for 3 from 3-point range – and the Coyotes led 43-34 at the break. He added 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting including two more treys in the second half and finished 5 of 6 beyond the arc.


Jun Murdock (JR/Wichita, Kan.) finished with 16 points and eight assists and Alex Littlejohn (SO/Newton, Kan.) 11 points, all in the second half after sitting out much of the first half with two fouls. He also grabbed seven rebounds. Thurbil Bile (JR/Centennial, Colo.) added nine rebounds, seven points and three steals and Trey Duffey (JR/Topeka, Kan.) had eight points and eight rebounds.


The Coyotes outrebounded Ottawa 46-28 and had 17 assists. They shot 45 percent (33 of 73) including 10 of 23 beyond the 3-point arc in a nearly complete performance.


“We needed to bounce back and that’s what we did,” Monson said. “We’ve been resilient all year, we’re 21 and 3 and it’s a heck of a run we’re on right now.


“Rebounding was huge tonight and 17 assists just shows we’re sharing the ball. I thought T (Bile) and Duff (Duffey) were really good tonight too. They gave us some really good minutes and they rebounded really well all game long.”


Ottawa opened the second half with a 7-2 run, Ty Bland accounting for all seven points, and trailed 45-41 with 18:14 left. But KWU responded with an 11-0 surge for a 56-41 lead with 15 minutes remaining.


Clinging to a 69-60 lead with 8½ minutes left the Coyotes ended the suspense with a 10-2 rally capped by two Kaplan free throws for a 79-62 advantage with 6:44 left.


KWU led by 21 twice late in the second half.


Ottawa (11-13, 8-10 KCAC) shot 44.4 percent, 4 of 13 from deep. Bland scored a team-best 15 before fouling out with about 9 minutes left.


The game was the Coyotes 10th on the road in their last 13 games but return to Mabee Arena for three of their last four to close out the regular season.


“This was a tough stretch and two of our losses are to (No. 2-ranked) Oklahoma Wesleyan,” Monson said. “I feel like we’re really starting to catch a really good rhythm. We’re shooting the ball a lot better, the depth is starting to come through and guys are finding their roles and get more comfortable. It’s exciting.”


KWU plays Saint Mary at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Mabee Arena. The Spires (7-17, 3-15 KCAC) defeated Friends 60-58 Saturday in Leavenworth. Wesleyan defeated USM 86-62 December 10 in Leavenworth.