WINFIELD — Alex Littlejohn (FR/Newton, Kan.) recorded his first career double-double in helping the Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes to a dominating 86-67 win over Southwestern on Monday night at Stewart Field House.
“He was lights out for us,” KWU head coach Anthony Monson said in his postgame radio interview. “Every single night, the kid works his tail off and he’s relentless. I’m just happy for him and excited that he’s able to do what he’s able to do.”
Littlejohn scored a game high 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting and pulled down a game high 13 rebounds in helping the Coyotes improve to 8-1 overall and 4-1 in the KCAC, while Southwestern dropped its second straight, falling to 8-2 and 2-2 in the conference.
The Coyotes also stepped up the defensive pressure, holding Southwestern to 67 points, its lowest output of the season and 23 points below their season scoring average of 90.3 per game heading into Monday’s game.
KWU led 46-30 at the half, thanks to a 22-8 run to end the first, but Southwestern got back as close as nine with 8:57 left at 63-54. A quick 11-2 run by the Coyotes made it 74-56 with 6:49 to go on a steal and score by Tyus Jeffries (SR/Oklahoma City, Okla.).
“We never flinched the whole night,” Monson said. “They kept trying to put pressure on us and we weren’t getting stops early in the second half. When we don’t get stops in the second half, we’re not very good.
“We started locking in and just make things difficult and got those stops.”
Southwestern scored first in the game, but the Coyotes scored the next five to take a 5-2 lead after Easton Hunter (FR/Colwich, Kan.)’s layup with 18:37 left in the half.
The Moundbuilders took a brief 8-7 lead but the Coyotes bounced back on four straight by Trey Duffey (SO/Topeka, Kan.), followed by a Littlejohn bucket to make it 13-8, and Cory Kaplan (SO/Merritt Island, Fla.)’s free throws made it 15-8 with 15:19 left in the half.
Southwestern came back and tied it on a 7-0 run, but AJ Range (SR/Junction City, Kan.) buried a triple to put the Coyotes up for good with 12:30 left in the first half.
Littlejohn gave the Coyotes a 24-17 lead, before Southwestern got back within two with 9:30 to go in the half. Then things turned in favor of the Coyotes.
Gabe Mack (JR/Milwaukee, Wis.) buried a 3 for the Coyotes that sparked a 12-0 run for the Coyotes that was capped by Kaplan’s triple to make it 36-22 with 6:40 to go in the half.
Southwestern battled back within nine with nine minutes left at 63-54, but Izaiah Hale (FR/Wichita, Kan.) buried back to back triples and added a free throw all around a Southwestern score to push the Coyote lead back out to 14 with 7:56 left.
“It’s different guys every night,” Monson said. “Tonight it was Izaiah Hale with a huge stretch for us tonight when we needed it.
“Our guys just wanted it. They had the will to win, and they didn’t flinch when Southwestern came out with energy to start the game.”
Wesleyan extended the lead to as many as 21 late before coming away with the 86-67 win.
Littlejohn and Kaplan shared scoring high honors among all scoreres in the game with 18 each, while Jun Murdock (SO/Wichita, Kan.) added 11 for the Coyotes who shot 47.2 percent from the field (34 of 72) and hit nine 3-pointers (9 of 27) in the game. KWU won the rebounding battle 43-33 led by Littlejohn’s 13, while Range added eight.
A busy week for the Coyotes continues Thursday as Wesleyan hosts Sterling at 8 p.m. in Mabee Arena, before heading to Hillsboro on Saturday to face Tabor.