Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball coach Anthony Monson knew that Monday’s meeting with the Tabor Bluejays would be a grind it out game.
“Sometimes you have to find a way to win ugly,” Monson said. “That’s what we did tonight, we found a way to win ugly. We showed a lot of toughness and effort tonight, especially in the second half.”
We won the second chance points battle 19-0. That shows a lot of grit and effort on our part and we had guys do what they needed to do to win.”
The Coyotes were able to hold off a pesky Tabor squad and pull away late for the 72-58 win at Mabee Arena.
The victory improves KWU’s record to 11-8 overall and 8-6 in the KCAC, while Tabor fell to 2-16 and remains in search of their first conference win of the season at 0-15.
Wesleyan got more outstanding efforts from AJ Range (JR/Junction City, Kan.) who led the Coyotes with 16 points, and Zay Wilson (SR/Austin, Texas), making his second start of the year, had a double-dozen with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Trey Duffey (FR/Topeka, Kan.) added a career-best nine points off the bench for the Coyotes.
“I am really proud of all our guys,” Monson said. “We had guys step up and make plays, earn those hustle points and helped us win the game.”
The Coyotes trailed 6-4 early in the first half, but responded with a 9-0 run capped by 3-pointers by Wilson and Brendon Ganaway (SR/Houston, Texas) to take a 13-6 lead with 13:39 left.
A bucket by Duffey gave the Coyotes a 19-11 lead with 10:13 to go, when Tabor pressed back. The Bluejays tied it at 19-all with 7:43 left in the half on a 3 by Montel Stewart.
Leading by a point, the Coyotes got a huge 3-pointer by Peyton Hatter (SO/Andover, Kan.) to take a 25-21 lead with 6:34 left in the half, but again Tabor tied things up at 26-all with 4:14 to go.
Responding again were the Coyotes. Duffey hit a free throw, followed by four straight points by Wilson and a Ganaway free throw to give KWU a 32-26 lead with 2:06 left before the break.
KWU would take a 34-28 lead into the intermission.
A 9-0 run by the Coyotes to open the second half finished by Range’s free throws with 15:57 left gave KWU a 43-28 lead in the game.
Tabor cut it to six two and a half minutes later at 45-39, but the Coyotes would take a 12-point lead on Duffey’s bucket with 12:16 left that made it 51-39.
The Bluejays got within seven with 9:56 to go, but got no closer the rest of the way. Range’s bucket with 7:52 left put the Coyotes up 13 at 61-48, and Hatter’s 3 with 5:45 to go put the Coyotes up 14 at 67-53.
KWU was 24-of-56 from the field for 42.9 percent for the game. The Coyotes also won the rebounding battle 42-29 led by Wilson’s 12 while Range added seven. Brayden White (JR/Topeka, Kan.) had six assists while Ganaway added four.
The Coyotes play the second of three games this week on Thursday, hosting the Friends Falcons at 8 p.m. at Mabee Arena. KWU caps the week on Saturday with a trip to Lindsborg to face the Swedes.