Coyotes overcome slow start, pull away for 85-69 win over York

YORK, Neb. – It has been noted several times previous, Jun Murdock is a good basketball player.Murdock scored 11 of Kansas Wesleyan’s first 12 points, and kept the Coyotes in it early as KWU overcame a slow start and picked up an 85-69 win over York on Wednesday night at the Freeman Center.“We got into foul trouble with Alex, and we were getting good looks, we just couldn’t hit,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said. “I looked at my assistants and said ‘we’re going to put Jun through as many ball screens as we can and let him work’, and he got a little bit of rhythm and kept us afloat until we started hitting shots.”Nothing was falling early for the Coyotes, who started the game 3 of 17 from the field, but only trailed by six points with 11:16 to go in the first at 13-7. A triple by Murdock following the Coyotes within three and another Murdock bucket with 8:38 to go made it 17-16 York.Easton Hunter’s 3 with 8:03 to go tied things up at 19-all, but the Coyotes fell behind again at 25-21 with 6:12 to go, when things took a turn in favor of the purple-clad visitors.Another triple by Hunter gave Wesleyan its first lead since 5-2 at 26-25, and another Hunter long bomb put the Coyotes up 29-25 with 3:06 left.The big turning point in the first half was on a play that was initially ruled as a block and a basket scored for York’s Trevon Dennis that would have made it 29-27, with Dennis at the line.However, the officials conferenced, and reviewed the play, and overturned the call to a charge, and a Flagrant-1 foul against Dennis, wiping the basket off the board and giving the Coyotes two free throws and the ball.Monson agreed it was a big tipping point in favor of the Coyotes.“That was a big turning point in the game, the flagrant foul,” he said. “It could have been a 1-point game at that point, but they took the points off the board, we got the free throws, and it just made a lot of things turn in our favor, and we kind of rode that into half time.”Hunter’s free throws and Thurbil Bile’s score with 2:07 left put the Coyotes up eight and Gabe Phillips’ tip in put Wesleyan up 35-25 with 1:35 left in the half.A 3 by Jameer Clemons right before the break made it 40-27 Coyotes heading into the half.Wesleyan pushed the lead out to 16 at 49-33 on a triple by Izaiah Hale with 17:13 to go in the game, but York pushed back.The Panthers went on a 9-0 run, cutting the difference to seven at 49-42 with 15:01 left, and got it within six at 51-45 before the Coyotes took control.“Whenever you face a team on their home floor you’re going to see them make a run, and they did,” Monson said. “I thought we did a really good job of handling it, maybe relied on the 3 a little too much, but at the end of the day we made the plays we needed to and got the win.”Six straight for the Coyotes capped by Murdock’s free throws with 11:18 left got it to a 57-45 difference.It was a 10-point difference at 63-53 with eight minutes left when the Coyotes scored seven straight to push the difference out to 17 with 5:31 left.Alex Littlejohn’s free throws with 3:58 left pushed the lead out to 21 points at 76-55.“The guys played well after a slow start and we got a win and that’s all that matters,” Monson said.Murdock finished the night with a game-high 27 points, while Hunter had 17, Littlejohn 12 and Izaiah Hale 11. Littlejohn had 11 rebounds and Hale eight to lead KWU to a 40-39 rebounding advantage.Wesleyan is back in action on Saturday as the Coyotes host Avila at 3 p.m. inside Mabee Arena. The game time was moved up earlier in the week to avoid inclement weather issues.