Marcel Dean (SO/Tucson, Ariz.) hadn’t played or practiced with his Kansas Wesleyan basketball teammates for four days, sidelined by the one of the illnesses that were slam dunking the Coyotes.
Dean, who had been in the starting lineup, felt well enough to dress for KWU’s game against surging Southwestern Monday night but was relegated to a reserve role at the start.
Summoned for duty early in the first half it was the Moundbuilders who started feeling poorly when he stepped on the court. Dean scored 10 first half points and tallied 12 consecutive points during an incredible stretch of the second half that propelled Wesleyan to an 81-69 Kansas Conference victory inside Mabee Arena.
The win was a much-needed boost for the Coyotes after two consecutive losses and six in their last eight games. They improved to 15-7 overall and 10-7 in the KCAC while Southwestern, which had won eight in a row, fell to 18-4 and 12-4.
Dean, a transfer from Pima (Ariz.) College, made three long 3-pointers after a conventional three-point play during his second half blitz.
“I just found the rhythm,” he said. “I’m a rhythm player and once I have a chance to get hot, I can knock them down.”
Dean’s run gave the Coyotes a 71-45 lead with 11½ minutes left and Southwestern got no closer than the final score. KWU led 81-61 with just under three minutes left before the Moundbuilders scored the final eight points.
Dean’s last two 3-pointers were from at least NBA range.
“Those are shots I practice and I’m fully confident,” he said. “It’s just confidence, practice those shots and expect them to go in.”
Dean scored 40 in a game last season for Pima and coincidentally that effort played a role in his success Monday.
“It was funny, I actually was thinking about that before today,” he said. “I had the same feeling going into the game so it’s kind of funny how things worked out.”
Monday was Dean’s first activity since playing in KWU’s loss to Oklahoma Wesleyan last Thursday. He got sick the following day.
“He’s been gone and Dan (O’Connell, KWU’s head trainer) has held him out, he didn’t even practice (Sunday),” coach Anthony Monson said. “That’s just all confidence and he’s got a little swagger to him. He’s a special player.”
The victory was KWU’s second of the season over the Moundbuilders after an 86-67 victory November 29 in Winfield.
The Coyotes were in control from the start Monday, scoring the game’s first 13 points. They led by as many as 23 (47-24) late in the first half and had a 50-29 advantage at the break after shooting 62.5 percent (20 of 32).
They shot 53.4 percent (31 of 58) for the game, were 8 of 19 from beyond the arc, 11 of 12 from the foul line and had 17 assists.
Five other Coyotes joined Dean in double figures. Jun Murdock (SO/Wichita, Kan.) had 12, all in the first half, and A.J. Range, Trey Duffey (SO/Topeka, Kan.), Tyus Duffey and Alex Littlejohn (FR/Newton, Kan.) 10 apiece. Range also had eight rebounds and Murdock six assists.
“It was big because we hadn’t been playing well and they had been playing really well,” Monson said. “We just needed some things to go right and we had a great first half. We moved the ball so well – 10 assists, two turnovers – and just guarded really well.”
Monson was happy to see his team re-emerge after a difficult 19-day stretch.
“We’ve been banged up, sick, different coaching staffs – we’ve kind of been through the gambit – but now we’re starting to come out of it,” he said. “Hopefully this is the start of what usually happens with our program – we get towards that last third of the year we start going on our run.”
“It was a big win for us to get back on track,” Dean said. “We played unselfish, we played fast and played to our strengths. We can’t be stagnant and hold the ball, it slows you down.”
Deng Bol led Southwestern with 18 points and nine rebounds while Cevin Clark had 16 points. The Moundbuilders shot 50 percent (26 of 52) but were 5 of 21 from long range and 12 of 20 at the line.
The Coyotes play Sterling at 8 p.m. Thursday in Sterling then take on Tabor at 7 p.m. Saturday in Mabee Arena. Sterling (2-20, 1-16 KCAC) lost to Saint Mary 90-74 Monday in Leavenworth.