HILLSBORO, Kan. – The Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball team ended a three-game losing streak and won in the Tabor College Gym for the first time since 2010 as the Coyotes used a huge second half to beat the Tabor College Bluejays a 72-59 win on Wednesday night.
It was a tale of two halves for both teams, as Tabor (4-12, 2-8 KCAC) shot 61 percent in the first half compared to 38 for the Coyotes, but in the second half the numbers were basically reversed as KWU (7-7, 5-5 KCAC) shot 58 percent in the second half and Tabor was held to 44 percent.
Trailing by a pair at the half, James Brooks (JR/Cherokee, Kan.) scored with 15:29 left to tie things up at 36-all.
A triple by sophomore Brayden White (SO/Topeka, Kan.), who scored a career-high equaling 11 points put the Coyotes up for good at 39-36 with just under 15 minutes left in the game. It was the third big 3-pointer by White to open the second half which kept the Coyotes close.
“At the end of the day we started making some shots,” Wesleyan head coach Anthony Monson said. “We responded well in the second half, we were patient and shot well and I feel like it was our most complete game of the year.”
A bucket by Jordan McNelly (JR/Salina, Kan,) capped a 12-2 run for the Coyotes, giving KWU a 43-38 lead and forcing a Tabor timeout.
The Bluejays answered with a 3, but never got closer than two points the rest of the way.
Six straight points by AJ Range (SO/Junction City, Kan.) around a Tabor 3-point gave the Coyotes a 49-44 lead with 9:35 left.
A pair of free throws by White with 5:12 left pushed the lead into double digits and a big three-point play by Marquis Kraemer (SO/Aurora, Colo.) gave Wesleyan a 13-point cushion with 4:15 left and a triple by Brooks gave KWU its biggest lead of the night at 67-52 with 2:49 to go.
Wesleyan also was able to produce in the paint, outmanning the Bluejays in the post, outscoring the hosts 40-26 in the paint.
“We had a definite size advantage down low,” Monson said. “We had a skill advantage also at our 4 and 5 positions and we had to take advantage of it.”
The Coyotes fell behind 12-2 to start the game with just under five minutes gone by in the opening half. A 3-pointer by Darius Hammond (SO/Dallas, Texas) with 12:27 left in the first half drew the Coyotes within five at 14-9, and Nathaniel Leach (JR/Houston, Texas)’s free throw with 9:15 to go in the half got the Coyotes within three at 16-13.
A bucket by AJ Range with 7:30 left tied things up at 18-all and James Brooks connected with a bucket to give Wesleyan the lead at 20-18 with 7:07 left.
Tabor pushed its lead out to four again with 3:40 to go at 26-22. After a bucket by Zach Rammelt (JR/Racine, Wis.) with 2:11 left, Tabor regained its four-point margin before Darius Hammond scored with 35 seconds left before the half cutting the difference to 28-26 at the break.
“In the first half we couldn’t have asked for better looks,” Monson said. “We just couldn’t hit anything. James (Brooks) was missing wide open shots, Jordan McNelly was missing layups, but I knew that at some point things were going to turn in our favor.
“That’s why I didn’t feel bad going into halftime being down.”
The Coyotes played well defensively in the first half, forcing Tabor into 16 turnovers that yielded 11 points but trailed by two at the break.
“I thought our defensive effort in the first half was phenomenal, forcing 16 turnovers,” Monson said. “And the way we took them out of things and guarded was great.”
Brooks paced the Coyotes with 16 as four players reached double-figures, joined by McNelly with 14, Range with 12 and White’s 11. KWU was 29-of-60 shooting for the game (48.3 percent) and was 6-of-8 at the line for 75 percent. Tabor edged the Coyotes 28-27 on the boards as Range led KWU with seven.
The Coyotes are home for the first time in 2019 on Saturday, hosting the York Panthers at 3 p.m. at Mabee Arena. Wesleyan then closes the first half of conference play on Monday in Lindsborg against the rival Bethany Swedes in a First Bank Kansas Smoky Hill Showdown match-up.
After an exhibition game on Tuesday at Newman in Wichita, KWU opens the second half of KCAC play next Saturday, January 12, hosting No. 3 ranked Oklahoma Wesleyan.
#19 Tabor 69, Kansas Wesleyan 63
HILLSBORO, Kan. – The holiday break appears to have been a bad break for the Kansas Wesleyan women’s basketball team.
No. 19 Tabor forced 24 Coyote turnovers and used a flurry of fourth quarter free throws to pull away for a 69-63 Kansas Conference victory Wednesday night.
The loss is the second in a row for KWU since returning from the two-week break is now 10-6 overall, 8-2 in conference play. The Coyotes had won seven in a row before the pause.
Wesleyan took a 47-45 lead into the fourth quarter, but Tabor (11-3, 8-2) scored the first seven points of the period.
The Coyotes scrambled back and regained the lead, 57-56, on a Sydney Mortensen (SR/Wichita, Kan.) basket with 3:57 left. A Courtney Heinen (JR/Axtell, Kan.) basket gave KWU a 60-59 lead with 3:37 remaining, but Tabor clinched it by scoring 10 of the next 12 points – eight from the free throw line – for a 68-61 lead with 18 seconds left.
Tabor was 14 of 16 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, 9 of 10 the final 1:52.
“Going into the game we talked about winning it in the halfcourt defensively and we just didn’t do a good enough job in the fourth quarter to give ourselves a chance,” Wesleyan coach Ryan Showman said.
Tabor was 21 of 29 from the line for the game while was just 11 of 12. The Bluejays 21 of 29.
Showman was diplomatic when asked about the disparity.
“I thought we did a great job attacking (the basket), we just didn’t get the free throw line as much as we wanted to,” he said.
Tabor entered the game leading the KCAC in scoring defense, allowing 54.3 points per game, and held Wesleyan 11 points under its 74.7 scoring average. The Bluejays scored 20 points off the Coyote turnovers.
Heinen led KWU with a career-best 23 points off the bench. She was 7 of 14 from the field and 8 of 9 at the line, but was the lone Coyote in double figures.
“She was absolutely dynamite, she was lights out,” Showman said. “She hit big bucket after big bucket … she was great. That’s exactly how she’s practiced the last two days with that scorer’s mentality. She able to give us a chance to win the game offensively.”
Virja Lewis (SO/Kansas City, Kan.) finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. Kayla Kivinski (SR/Port Richey, Fla.) and Gabbie Miller (SR/Kiefer, Okla.) scored eight apiece as Wesleyan shot 46.2 percent from the field (24 of 52), 4 of 12 from 3-point range. The Coyotes also won the rebounding battle handily, 40-34.
Tabor shot 39.3 percent (24 of 61), including 0-7 from 3-point range. Taylor Deniston and Kristyn Wedel led the Bluejays with 15 points each.
Wesleyan got off to a fast start and led 20-10 with 3:13 left in the first quarter. Trailing 24-16 early in the second quarter, Tabor scored seven unanswered points and trailed 24-23.
The Coyotes didn’t score from the 8:05 mark to the 4:43 mark in the second quarter, but managed to close the half on a 10-4 run for a 35-31 lead at the break.
A Heinen basket with 27 seconds left in the third quarter gave Wesleyan a 47-45 lead entering the final 10 minutes.
Wesleyan’s back home Saturday afternoon for a game against York, starting at 1 p.m. at Mabee Arena. York fell to 3-12 overall, 0-10 in the conference, with a 77-46 loss to Oklahoma Wesleyan on Wednesday in York, Neb.
“We’ve gotten to a point this season where we’re expecting to win games and we’re very disappointed when we don’t,” Showman said. “This is no different from when we lost at Sterling. We felt we had opportunities to win and let it go.
“I think the team I have is a really great team and I think we’re every bit as good as the top teams in this conference. We’re going to take what we need to get better and we’re going to refocus. This (conference race) is far from over, we’ve got a lot of great basketball ahead of us. Everything where we fell short tonight is fixable and correctable, and I’ve got the team that wants to make those corrections.”