Anthony Monson had a key point for the Kansas Wesleyan Men’s Basketball team after their heartbreaking loss to No. 10 ranked Ottawa on Wednesday at Mabee Arena.
“We are really consistent at being inconsistent,” he said. “We are trying to figure out some roles and what are doing here and there. I thought we gave an incredible effort in the second half tonight and those are the efforts we need to have consistently every night. If we can do that we are going to win a lot of games.”
The Coyotes darted out to an 18-8 lead to start the game in the first eight minutes, but the Braves would find their groove, outscoring the Coyotes 32-12 over the rest of the first half to take a 40-30 lead at the break.
Patience and relentless defense fueled the Coyotes to the early lead as it was Brendon Ganaway (SR/Houston, Texas) that first put Wesleyan up by double digits with 13:52 to go in the opening stanza. Savian Edwards (FR/Topeka, Kan.) again put KWU up by 10 with 11:37 left before Ottawa made its charge.
Back-to-back 3 pointers by Ottawa from Joe Johnson got the Braves within four at 20-16, and Ryan Haskins hit another triple to get Ottawa within two at 21-19 with 8:25 left.
Wesleyan built the lead back up to six at 25-19 on a bucket by James Brooks (SR/Frontenac, Kan.), but Ottawa came back to tie things at 26-all with 3:50 to go.
Ottawa closed the half on a 14-4 run to take the 10 point lead into the half.
The Coyotes weren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet.
Falling behind 15 at one point in the second half, things started to change in favor of the hosts in the half.
Ganaway’s free throws with 14:14 left got the lead back into single digits at 50-41 and after the Coyotes trailed by 11 with 9:33 left, Zay Wilson (SR/Austin, Texas)’s score would get the Coyotes back within single digits again, and sparked the Coyote run.
“I thought in the first half we shot with no confidence and in the second half we shot with a ton of confidence,” Monson said. “Around the basket in the first half, we were soft and timid, but in the second half it was with more authority. Look at Zay Wilson, he had his best game with us so far tonight.”
Wesleyan got within a point with 5:15 left as Wilson buried a 3-pointer that made it 64-63 and it was a bucket by Savian Edwards followed a Brooks triple with 4:23 to go that gave the Coyotes a 68-67 lead, their first since the first half.
“There’s a lot of hurt guys in the locker room because I think for the first time they felt like they did everything they could and left it all on the floor and really believed they were going to get the win,” Monson said. “But it hurts. It’s something they’re going to learn from, something they’re going to take to heart and it usually energizes and refocuses you, that’s what we need right now.”
Brooks gave the Coyotes one last lead with 1:14 left at 72-71 and the Coyotes had a chance to extend the advantage but missed a pair of free throws by Ganaway.
Ottawa would get a 3-pointer by Darryl Bowie with 20 seconds left to take the lead and free throws by Johnson with 3.6 seconds left gave the Braves a 76-72 lead.
Ganaway would hit a half court shot with 0.3 seconds left making it 76-75, giving the Coyotes a chance to set up a defensive play that could turn to offense, but could not get the steal and tip-in.
“To play a Top 10 team in the nation, basically down to a one possession game where it came down to that their guys made the shots and we missed the free throws. I think this game proves we can play with the best teams in our league and we now we have to find a way to be consistent,” Monson said.
It was a balanced scoring attack from the Coyotes, who placed six in double figures led by AJ Range (JR/Junction City, Kan.) with 15 and 13 rebounds. Brooks had 13, Brayden White (JR/Topeka, Kan.) and Wilson 12, and Ganaway and Edwards 10 each. KWU scorched the second half nets for 56.7 percent (17-of-30), finishing the game 30-of-62 for 48.4 percent. KWU struggled at the free throw line, going just 10-of-21 (47.6 percent).
Ottawa was led by Bowie with 20, while three others had 13 points each.
“At the end of the day, they made the play when they needed to and we didn’t and that’s why they’re 16-1 and we are in the middle of the pack,” Monson said.
The Coyotes are back in action on Saturday, heading to Bartlesville, Okla., to take on the Oklahoma Wesleyan Eagles at 5 p.m. at the Mueller Sports Center.