SIOUX CITY, Iowa – A healthy, rested and resurgent Kansas Wesleyan basketball team was more than ready for its early-morning challenge.
The No. 15 Coyotes took control of the game early on and never looked back in rolling an 86-64 victory over No. 17 Mayville State, N.D., Wednesday morning in a first-round game of the NAIA Division II Women’s National Championship at Tyson Events Center.
The Coyotes advance to the second round and a game against Concordia, Neb., at noon Friday. The Bulldogs (32-2) are the defending national champions, the top overall seed team in the tournament and top-ranked team in Division II. Concordia defeated Wilberforce, Ohio, 75-57 in the first round Wednesday.
Unfazed by the 8:30 a.m. tip-off the Coyotes – the No. 4-seed in the Naismith Bracket – raced to a 22-11 lead after one quarter, led by 13 at halftime and 19 after three quarters in raising their record to 26-6. It was KWU’s first game since a loss to Oklahoma Wesleyan in the quarterfinals of the Kansas Conference tournament February 26.
Amanda Hill (JR/Rossville, Kan.) scored 10 points and Kelcey Hinz (SO/Whitewater, Kan.) nine of her team-best 32 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for the remainder of the game.
“When we learned that we were playing at 8:30 in the morning we knew that victory was going to favor the team that’s mentally and physically ready to play that early,” KWU Coach Ryan Showman said. “That was as good as we’ve played in a first quarter in several weeks. They were ready to go.”
The Coyotes effectively ended any doubts about the outcome in the third quarter. Leading 42-31, they embarked on a 12-0 surge that gave them a 23-point lead with 4 minutes left in the quarter.
“We talked about games aren’t usually won in the first quarter, but you can do a lot and I thought we did everything in our power to come out and jump on them and force them to play catch-up,” Showman said. “Every time they went on a little bit of a run we had an answer, whether it was Courtney (Heinen), whether it was Kelcey.”
Mayville State (25-6) got within 16 (74-58) in the fourth quarter, but the Coyotes answered with a 10-4 run that slammed the door.
“When they made that run we called time and said ‘guys, we’ve got to have better offensive possessions,'” Showman said.
Hinz, the KCAC’s Newcomer of the Year and a unanimous First-Team selection, fell one point shy of her career high and one rebound shy of her 15th double-double, but was beyond sensational nonetheless. She was 11 of 24 from the field, 10 of 11 at the foul line and had four steals. Heinen, who missed last year’s national tournament because of an injury, finished with 20 points on 9 of 14 shooting and had seven rebounds, and Hill added 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting and five rebounds.
Hinz was 3 of 12 shooting the first half and 8 of 12 the second.
“She wasn’t trying to shoot over their 6-3 post player,” Showman said of the second half difference. “She got them coming out then going by them, drop-step dribble and getting to the other side, she would get it in the high post and dribble and drive … she was doing some different things so the girl guarding her would have to guard her differently.
“That just shows you how good Kelcey is and the ability to make adjustments in the game.”
Back-up post player Lauren Flowers (SO/Overland Park, Kan.) had 15 productive minutes off the bench, finishing with eight points, three rebounds and an assist.
KWU shot 50 percent (30 of 60) for the game, was 22 of 25 at the line, outscored the Comets 40-26 in the paint and won the rebounding battle 35-31.
As good as the Coyotes were offensively, though, they were at least as good or maybe better defensively. Mayville State shot 37.5 percent (21 of 56) and had 18 turnovers that led to 26 KWU points. The Comets entered the game averaging 9.3 made 3-pointers per contest, but were just 7 of 18 beyond the arc Wednesday.
“Where the run started in the third quarter was on the defensive end,” Showman said. “We executed plays and we finished better.”
Nicole Bunting led MSU with a career-high 33 points on 10 of 18 shooting. Kylee Heurung, the Comets’ leading scorer, finished with 10 – five below her average – and didn’t score her first field goal until early in the fourth quarter.
The victory helped KWU ease the pain of a 91-51 loss to College of the Ozarks in last year’s first round.
“It was a performance we needed in the opening round of the national tournament,” Showman said.