Littlejohn scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, while Murdock added 16 points to help the No. 21 ranked Coyotes (14-1, 8-1) get past an upset-minded Tabor Bluejay squad on Wednesday night at the Tabor College Gym.
“They’re good. They’ve been through the fire,” Monson said of the duo. “They understand what it takes to win in the league. Hats off to my guys that made enough plays to win the game.”
Littlejohn hit three 3-pointers in the game, but his biggest bucket of the night perhaps was a rebound and stickback of a miss by Trey Duffey (JR/Topeka, Kan.) with 34.3 seconds left that gave the Coyotes a 72-68 lead.
Tabor (6-9, 3-6) made things interesting in the final seconds as Thatcher McClure hit a 3 with 1.7 seconds left to get the Bluejays within a point at 72-71.
Murdock sealed the win with a pair of free throws as Tabor fouled before the ball could be inbounded sending him to the line.
“We can’t let our guard down on the road. Part of it is just learning to play on the road, we haven’t done a lot of that so far this season,” Monson said. “We were able to push the lead out, but we were never able to extend it. We have just got to figure out ways to put multiple stops together and we will.”
The Coyotes rallied from a four-point deficit in the first half to build as much as a nine-point lead with 1:56 left in the half after free throws by Murdock that made it 38-29.
Tabor closed to within five at the half, 38-33.
The Coyotes built a 42-35 lead to start the second half on Thurbil Bile (JR/Centennial, Colo.)’s steal and dunk, but Tabor tied it at 48-all on a triple by Kreeland Avery and took a 51-49 lead on McClure’s triple with 15:10 left.
Six straight from the Coyotes gave Wesleyan a 55-51 lead with 12:24 left, but KWU could not shake off the Bluejays.
“I don’t know if we did a lot to set ourselves apart tonight. You have to give (Tabor) credit, they came out and played hard, hit 7 of 11 three’s in the second half,” Monson said. “We were good enough to squeak by, and sometimes in the conference in road games that’s how it’s going to be. We are fortunate enough to come away with a win tonight. ”
Tabor got within one again with 9:58 left before the Coyotes again built a six-point lead on Littlejohn’s bucket with 8:02 left. The Bluejays got within two with 1:04 left after the Coyotes had taken a 68-62 lead with 3:17 left.
“We got beat on the hustle plays tonight, that’s what drove me nuts. We didn’t win the 50/50 balls, we didn’t win the loose balls, we got outrebounded, it was just an effort thing tonight,” Monson said. “We need to be better, and we will. It’s good again because it was one where you can win and you can learn from it.”
Wednesday’s win also vaulted Monson into solo second place on the KWU men’s all-time wins list, surpassing Alexander Brown Mackie with his 113th career win.
“I’m blessed with really good staff, and a lot of really good players that have helped me achieve these 113 wins and we are going to keep moving the program forward and we will,” he said.
The Coyotes are on the road again on Saturday, heading to York, Nebraska to take on the York University Panthers at 7 p.m. inside the Freeman Center. York beat Friends 84-81 Wednesday night.