Kansas Wesleyan’s long season-opening winning streak came to an end Saturday night at the hands of a familiar nemesis.
The No. 8-ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan shot 57 percent and took advantage of KWU’s poor shooting en route to a 75-44 Kansas Conference victory inside Mabee Arena.
The loss was the first of the season for the No. 8-ranked Coyotes after seven victories to start the 2022-23 season. They fell to 4-1 in the KCAC while OKWU improved to 10-1 and 6-0.
KWU made 25 percent of its shots (17 of 68) – 7 of 34 the second half (20.6 percent) – and was 2 of 24 from beyond the 3-point arc for the game. OKWU also won the rebounding battle 40-32.
“They always guard really well,” Monson said of the Eagles, “they always take you out to what you want to do. But at same time you’ve got to hit shots to win a game and we just didn’t do that, plain and simple. We didn’t do it the first half; we didn’t do it the second half.
“If Alex (Littlejohn) doesn’t go on that little (9-point) run that he had midway through the first half it’s probably even worse than it is.”
The Coyotes hung with OKWU the first 14 minutes of the game. Littlejohn’s basket, the last two points of his nine-point surge, gave KWU a 23-22 lead with 5:56 left in half but the Eagles scored 13 of the next 15 points and led 35-25 at the break.
The teams traded baskets to open the second half before OKWU took off, outscoring the Coyotes 18-4 and led 55-31 with 10:45 left. A 15-2 burst later made it 73-40 with 1:45 remaining.
Littlejohn led KWU with 13 points on 6 of 13 shooting. Eleven of his points came in the first half. Cory Kaplan (JR/Merritt Island, Fla.) and Izaiah Hale (SO/Wichita, Kan.) were on the scoring chart with five points each.
“I just didn’t think we were very tough tonight across the board,” Monson said. “I thought we got pushed around a little bit. I thought we got smacked in the face and we just didn’t handle very well.”
Monson said the loss could serve as a learning experience for his team.
“It’s easy when you’re winning all your games and you really don’t know what type of team you have until you have doubts,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out what type of team we’ve got and what type of response we’re going to have. We’ve got to get back to it and figure out how to do this better.”
OKWU was 31 of 54 from the field, 7 of 16 from deep, 6 of 7 at the foul line and had 16 assists on the 31 made baskets. Jaden Lietzke, the Eagles’ 6-foot-9 center, scored 13 and made all six of his shots. Dylan Phillip also scored 13 and Brandon Bird had 10.
“There’s a reason why they’ve won our league the past couple of years,” Monson said. “They’re just really good. They play hard, they played together and they execute what they need to do.”
The Coyotes play Ottawa at 8 p.m. Wednesday in their next contest. The Braves (5-6 overall, 2-4 KCAC) defeated Friends 78-75 Saturday in Wichita on a 3-point basket as time expired.
“It’s a long season,” Monson said. “If I can keep winning seven straight, lose one then win seven straight I’m pretty sure I’ll be fairly happy at the end of the day.”