Story by: Kennedy Rater, KWU Sports Media Team Intern
With hopes of continuing their current win streak of five, the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes hosted Saint Mary who is second to last in the KCAC standings. With hopes of Oklahoma Wesleyan dropping acouple ofgames, the Coyotes are in must win mode the entire way through if they want to be the one seed in the conference tournament.
Kansas Wesleyan has been led all season by forward, Alex Littlejohn (SO/Newton, Kan.) and guard, Jun Murdock (JR/Wichita, Kan.). However, on Wednesday night, the Coyotes were propelled by Senior, Tyus Jeffries (SR/Oklahoma City, Okla.) who accumulated half of the team’s bench points by scoring 18 for the game. Jeffries had two steals and had his way all game when driving to the basket.
Coach Monson showed some love to Tyus Jeffries, Caden Hale (SO/Glenpool, Okla.), and Malik Marshall, praising them on their success off the bench this year and the ability to make plays when needed.
When asked about the productivity off the bench, Monson stated, “That’s what separates us from the rest of the league, nobody has what we have. We have enough options to rotate any guy when something isn’t working for us. Our bench has been terrific all year and it’s been different guys all year.”
The Coyotes came out the gate fairly slow offensively. With only shooting 1-7 from three and 13-29 from the field, the Coyotes were kickstarted offensively by Jeffries and Littlejohn who had the team’s only three in the first half. Littlejohn ended the half with seven points and six rebounds, Jeffries ended the half with eight points and a steal.
The Coyotes bench was the key in the first half by outscoring Saint Mary’s bench 13-4 in the first half. For the game, the Coyote bench outscored Saint Mary, 36-9 and was a main reason for the team’s success tonight. Wesleyan ended the half leading 32-28.
The energy took a 180 turn in the second half for the Coyotes,and it was started by Littlejohn who came out aggressive early. He topped off his 17 point, 11 rebound performance, with a poster slam in the second half that really stimulated a big run and created some energy for the bench and crowd.
The lead got as large as 18 for Kansas Wesleyan. Two Izaiah Hale (SO/Wichita, Kan.) threes in the second half gave the Coyotes some breathing room for the rest of the game.
The Spires cut the lead down to 10 shortly after the big run from the Coyotes. Saint Mary tried to contain the Coyotes transition offense by running a soft man to man press in the second half, but it only led to more runouts turned into layups and dunks for Wesleyan.
Kansas Wesleyan struggled from the line in the second half, only shooting 59 percent which ultimately kept the margin close for Saint Mary. Wesleyan closed the game out in the final minutes and came out victorious, winning 80-68.
The Coyotes were led by Tyus Jeffries, who scored 18 points and added 3 steals. Alex Littlejohn had another double-double for the Coyotes with his 17 points and 11 rebound performance. Others that scored double figures included Cory Kaplan (JR/Merritt Island, Fla.) and Izaiah Hale who each scored 10 apiece.
For the Spires, Deshaud St. Martin led the way with 19 points and Joey Schultz had 17 points and 8 rebounds.
The Coyotes will travel to Sterling this Saturday in hopes of keeping their win streak alive. Right now, it stands at six in a row. Sterling College stands at 14-11 and 10-9 in the KCAC after dominating Friends 96-53 Wednesday night. KWU won the earlier meeting 81-54 on December 13 in Salina.
Kansas Wesleyan, who moved up a spot in the NAIA Top 25 poll released Wednesday morning to No. 12, improves to 22-3 for the season and 16-3 in conference play.