LEAVENWORTH – The Ryan Sports Center is never a fun place to play for the Kansas Wesleyan women’s basketball team. On Saturday night, the Coyotes used an outstanding second half effort to rally from a 12-point halftime deficit and come away with a 76-70 win snapping a three-game skid inside the Ryan Sports Center.
The victory boosts Wesleyan’s record to 18-6 overall and 16-2 in the KCAC heading into a key matchup with the Ottawa Braves on Wednesday at Mabee Arena.
“Saint Mary played great in the first half,” Wesleyan coach Ryan Showman said. “They were ready to play and took it to us in the first 15 minutes.
“After halftime we came out and played harder and executed better.”
The Coyotes outscored Saint Mary 41-23 in the second half after trailing by 12 at the break, shifting the focus to defense, holding the Spires to 7-of-32 shooting in the second half (21.9 percent).
“I credit out defense for setting the tone to start the second half,” Showman said. “We had some people step up and make plays.”
The Coyotes quickly trimmed the deficit to four points at 50-46 with 7:38 left on a bucket by Sydney Mortensen (SR/Wichita, Kan.). Saint Mary was able to push the difference back out to eight, A free throw by Amanda Hill (SO/Rossville, Kan.) following a technical on Saint Mary got Wesleyan’s third quarter-ending 7-0 run to get back within a point at 56-55 after three quarters.
Virja Lewis (SO/Kansas City, Kan.) scored the first points of the fourth quarter, giving KWU its first lead since near the end of the first quarter at 57=56 with 9:01 left.
Hill put the Coyotes up five at 68-63 with 3:13 left, before Saint Mary scored the next five to tie it at 68-68 with 1:23 left. Lewis put the Coyotes on top again as KWU hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
Setting the tone early, the Coyotes raced out to a 16-4 lead to start the game on a 3 by Kayla Kivinski (SR/Port Richey, Fla.), who finished with a game-high 18. Saint Mary battled back, taking a 22-21 lead just before the end of the first and the Spires extended the difference to three at the quarter break at 26-23.
The Spires controlled the second quarter, taking a 45-30 lead with 2:25 left and again with less than a minute to go before Mortensen buried a 3 with 13 seconds led to cut the difference to 12.
Mortensen added 17 and Lewis had 12 for the Coyotes who were 28-of-65 from the field for 43.1 percent. Hill led the Coyotes with 10 rebounds.
“Bottom line we did what we had to do to win the game, on the road, in late January,” Showman said. “We found a way and I couldn’t be more proud of this team.”
KWU 70, St. Mary 60
LEAVENWORTH – The “Curse of the Ryan Sports Center” has finally been lifted.
The Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball team defeated Saint Mary 70-60 in a Kansas Conference game Saturday night in a building that had been a house of horrors the past decade.
The Coyotes raced to a big first half lead, Jordan McNelly (JR/Salina, Kan,) broke out a lengthy scoring slump with 21 points and they fended off the Spires’ repeated comeback attempts the second half in getting their first victory inside Ryan since January 12, 2008 – 10 consecutive losses.
The win moves KWU into a tie for fourth placed with Ottawa at 11-7 in the conference standings. The Braves were idle Saturday and come to Salina for a pivotal game Wednesday in Mabee Arena, starting at 8 p.m.
The Coyotes (13-9 overall) led by 18 points three times in the first half, the third 37-19 at the 4:03 mark. Saint Mary, though, rallied and trailed 39-31 at halftime after a 12-2 surge.
“We got out and scored in transition,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said. “That was kind of an emphasis for us. The first time we played them we got a lot easy buckets and turned them over quite a bit.”
Monson was understandably displeased with the final four minutes of the half.
“We just completely lost our focus, they knocked down some shots, we were fortunate to go in (to halftime) up eight because it could’ve been a lot worse,” he said.
Saint Mary got within six twice early in the second half – 43-37 with 16:25 left the second time – but the Coyotes quickly built the lead back to 16 (57-42) with 10:18 remaining. The Spires made one last-ditch run and got within 62-54 with 3:43 left.
A 7-0 burst over the next 2:52 – four points from A.J. Range and three from Marquis Kraemer (SO/Aurora, Colo.) – gave the Coyotes a 69-54 lead with 1:05 left and sealed the deal.
Sophomore guard Brayden White (SO/Topeka, Kan.) scored all eight of his points the second half, including two big 3-pointers.
“I had a nice little come-to-Jesus meeting with Brayden White, so obviously that works very well for him,” Monson said with a laugh. “I’ll take credit for that. He responded big for us tonight.”
McNelly made his first six shots of the game and finished 8 of 12. He also had a team-high nine rebounds.
“He would have had 30 if he made his free throws (5 of 11),” Monson said. “We had to tell Jordan ‘you’ve just got to get back to playing basketball. Just play, have fun, don’t worry about missing, just play. All your focus and energy should be on the defensive end anyway, so don’t worry about the offense.’
“Just to see the ball go in and be able to score down in the paint was big for him tonight.”
Range continued his stellar play of late, finishing with 12 points and eight rebounds as Wesleyan easily won the rebounding battle 43-29. The Coyotes shot 49 percent (29 of 59) – 5 of 17 from 3-point range – but were 7 of 14 from the foul line.
Saint Mary (9-14 overall, 9-9 KCAC) shot 41 percent (25 of 61), just 4 of 17 beyond the arc and 6 of 12 at the line. Raylon Howard scored 21 points on 9 of 12 shooting, but was the only Spire in double figures.
“If we can score 70 points I like our chances, period,” Monson said. “I’ll even take 65. I just know that when we need to get stops we can get stops and we did that tonight.”