Men’s Basketball downs York, secures KCAC No. 2 seed

2/25/2024 | Men’s Basketball | Box Score
Senior Night was another monstrous night for Jun Murdock just like so many others have been in the last three years.Murdock, Kansas Wesleyan’s uber-talented All-America point guard, produced 28 points, five assists and four rebounds in leading the Coyotes to a 95-84 Kansas Conference victory over York in the regular-season finale Saturday night inside Mabee Arena.The victory gave the Coyotes (21-7, 18-4 KCAC) the No. 2 seed in the KCAC Tournament where they will play seventh-seeded Ottawa in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mabee Arena. Semifinals are scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday at the sites of the higher seeded teams; the championship game will be played at 8 p.m. March 3 inside Hartman Arena in Park City.Murdock scored 14 each half, was 11 of 14 from the field, 6 of 7 at the free throw line, deftly directed the offense and spearheaded the defensive effort while playing 39 minutes.KWU coach Anthony Monson summed his night up best in three words:“Jun was Jun,” he said.Recognized along with eight classmates during a ceremony between the women and men’s games Murdock smiled, waved to the crowd then did his thing on the court as he had in the Coyotes’ 91 previous contests.“It was wonderful but definitely bittersweet,” Murdock said of the Senior Night experience. “I love my teammates; they came out there and they played hard. I don’t want it to end but I know everything is going to end.”Izaiah Hale added 21 points, Alex Littlejohn had yet another double-double – 14 points, 14 rebounds – and Easton Hunter scored 11 as KWU shot 53 percent (34 of 64) from the field and was 20 of 21 at the foul line.York (11-17, 9-13 KCAC) refused to make it easy though. Playing for their postseason lives the Panthers battled to the end led by Dwight Glover who finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds.A rout appeared in the offing early on as Wesleyan raced to a 30-14 lead with 9:18 left in the half. Leading 35-19 with eight minutes left York punched the go button and outscored the Coyotes 25-10 the rest of the way.The Panthers missed two missed shots under the KWU basket just before the horn sounded allowing the Coyotes to take a 45-44 lead into intermission.The advantage quickly disappeared early in the second half when an 11-2 run gave York a 55-50 lead with 16½ minutes left.The game abruptly changed once again, though, when Thurbil Bile – the Coyotes’ senior center – hammered home a dunk that ignited a 12-0 run over the next 3:52 and made it 62-55. The Panthers committed seven consecutive turnovers during that stretch.York made one last charge and got within four twice – 64-60 and 66-62 – but a 7-0 spurt gave KWU a 73-62 lead with 8:39 left. The Panthers got no closer than seven the rest of the way.It was a familiar script for Monson.“Things weren’t going well but this team’s been pretty resilient all year, they usually find a way to get a win,” he said.As usual, Monson pointed to defense as the key.“It’s the same recipe for us all the time,” he said. “Get stops, runouts, early post touches, ball screens in transition and when we’re doing that we’re really, really good. When we’re just playing slow, methodical and exchanging buckets back and forth things just don’t work very well for us.”Monson said the defensive adjustment was more mental than physical.“It was so easy early on that we felt like ‘all right, now we don’t have to try any more’ and then you look up and you’re down five,” he said. “You realize they’re here to play and now you just have to refocus. With these guys being an older group, I think it’s a focus thing.”Murdock agreed.“Sometimes we just lose focus and then they start scoring,” he said. “We knew York could score the ball really well so got refocused and were able to get back on track.”He said the team let up after the fast start.“Once we saw a couple of shots go in, we thought it was going to be like that the whole game and then when they were switching their defense that made it a little tough too,” he said. “We got a little comfortable instead of attacking every time.”Monson said he has not spent any time pondering what life without Murdock will be like.“I don’t ever want to think about that,” he said with a smile. “I want to enjoy the (KCAC) tournament, play for the (NAIA) tournament and I will cross that bridge when I get there.”The Coyotes swept Ottawa (16-12) during the regular season winning 77-67 in Ottawa and 89-83 last Monday in Mabee Arena. The Braves lost to Saint Mary 93-91 in overtime Saturday in Ottawa. The KWU-OU winner will play either No. 3 Southwestern or No. 6 McPherson in Saturday’s semifinals.