Kansas Wesleyan women’s coach Ryan Showman expected a physical, grind-it-out game against McPherson.
The Bulldogs did not disappoint.
Kelcey Hinz (SO/Whitewater, Kan.) notched her 12th double-double and the No. 19 Coyotes turned in another stellar defensive effort in a 73-60 Kansas Conference victory over the upset-minded Bulldogs on Saturday night at Mabee Arena.
KWU improved to 23-5 overall and remained in first place in the KCAC with a 19-3 record, one game ahead of Sterling with two games left in the regular season.
The Coyotes overcame 34 percent shooting (22 of 65) and Brittany Roberts’ 29-point, 14-rebound double-double by limiting McPherson to 33 percent shooting (22 of 67) and forcing 19 turnovers that led to 23 points.
Their biggest edge, though, was at the free throw line where they were 26 of 34 compared to McPherson’s 11 of 24 showing.
“It was brutal,” Showman said of the physical play. “I liked the way we were defending, we cut down the offensive rebounds in the second half and I liked the way we were finishing plays. It seemed like we were more consistent with that in the second half.
“And then offensively, we knew it was going to this kind of a game. We adjusted eventually to the physicality of it and we were able to make some shots.”
Hinz scored 13 of her 20 points the second half while Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) had nine, and Courtney Heinen (SR/Axtell, Kan.) and Haleigh Bradford (SR/Schertz, Texas) eight each. Hinz finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
Bradford finished with 14 points and six rebounds while Hill and Heinen each scored 12. Hill also had nine rebounds and Heinen five rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Hinz admitted it took some time to adjust to physical play.
“It showed on our faces sometimes in the beginning,” she said. “It was a little bit harder than we thought it was going to be like, but we knew that if we came out and we played hard that it would be our ballgame in the end.
“They tried to take away every option that we thought we could get. They tried to take away the post, but we could drive and dish off. They tried to double-team us and that wasn’t working.”
KWU outscored McPherson (12-16, 8-14 KCAC) 8-0 the final five minutes of the second quarter and led 33-26 at the break.
Leading 35-30 early in the third quarter the Coyotes embarked on a 15-4 run that gave them a 50-34 lead with 2:39 left in the period. McPherson didn’t quit, though, and closed the quarter on an 11-0 spurt.
The Bulldogs got within five (54-49) early in the fourth quarter and trailed 60-54 with 6:47 left before KWU ended the suspense with a 9-2 rally that made it 69-56 with 1:54 remaining.
McPherson’s frustration manifest itself at the foul line and was whistled for two technical fouls.
“We know we’re better when we’re poised, when we control what we can control,” Showman said. “What you saw out there was a great reflection of our culture and who we are as players.
“When adversity hits we don’t crumble, we don’t fall apart, we don’t start pointing figures, we don’t yell at officials. We focus on what we can control and that’s our energy, our efforts and our attitudes.”
Roberts, the KCAC’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, was 11 of 22 from the field, but 7 of 17 from the line. No other McPherson player scored in double figure.
The battle between Hinz and Roberts was epic for Showman.
“That’s a couple of really good players,” he said. “That’s about as good as you’re going to see in the post in the conference this year. I’m glad to come out with a win against that because she’s capable of putting up big-time numbers every night.”
The Coyotes can win the KCAC title outright with victories at Ottawa on Wednesday and at home against Oklahoma Wesleyan next Saturday in the last two regular season games. Ottawa’s 8-17 overall and 8-14 in conference play after losing to Sterling 68-64 Saturday in Sterling. OKWU is 15-12 and 11-11.