Men’s Basketball holds on, knocks off No. 6 Southwestern 96-92

WINFIELD – Anthony Monson‘s Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes knew the task ahead of them was tall against the No. 6 ranked Southwestern Moundbuilders at Historic Stewart Field House.The team rose to the occasion and got the job done.Wesleyan held on at the end after Southwestern made a run at the end of the game for a 96-92 victory, handing Southwestern its first loss of the season.It’s the fourth straight win for the Coyotes over Southwestern in the all-time series, and the fifth straight win on the season for the Coyotes who improved to 9-4 overall and 6-1 in the KCAC.“I thought we came out and played an unreal half of basketball in the first half,” Monson said. “Our guys understood the magnitude of the game and being on the road and stepped up and made shot after shot after shot. That gave us a good enough of a cushion and enough of a comfort level in that gym going into halftime with a good lead.”Southwestern last led in the game with 15:46 left in the first half when it was 12-11 in favor of the hosts, but Easton Hunter’s triple put the Coyotes up 14-12 as KWU sped out to a 18-12 lead on Alex Littlejohn’s bucket with 13:57 left in the half.Jun Murdock’s three with 10:00 left put the Coyotes up by double digits for the first time at 29-18, but Southwestern battled back, cutting it to five with six minutes to go in the first.A 3-point play by Littlejohn pushed the Coyote lead back out to 10 with four minutes left and the Coyotes led by 13 just before the halftime buzzer before Southwestern hit a shot right before the half to make it a 57-46 difference at intermission.Wesleyan was on fire in the first half, hitting 22 of 33 shots for 67 percent and 8 of 9 3-pointers.Southwestern made a run to start the second half, cutting the difference to three at 59-56 with 16:50 to go, before the Coyotes got five straight on a Hunter 3 and a bucket by Littlejohn.Monson knew Southwestern’s run would come, and it did, several times in the second half.“We knew they were going to make a run in the second half, and they made several,” he said. “But we never flinched, never really got nervous, never gave the lead back. I am really proud of the guys for just persevering and making play after play and finding a way to win.”Wesleyan built the lead back out to nine with 9:30 to go, but the teams would go back and forth with runs down the stretch.It was a three-point game at 80-77 with 6:26 left, but an 8-0 Coyote run made it 88-77 with 3:51 to go. The Coyotes led by nine with 125 seconds left when Southwestern made another charge, getting within two on a wild 3-pointer by Cevin Clark.Littlejohn would hit two free throws at the end to seal the win for the Coyotes.The Coyotes limited Southwestern on offense, forcing the ‘Builders to take 81 shots in the game, 23 from both Clark and Andrew O’Brien, the high-octane tandem for Southwestern on the season. Southwestern shot just 42 percent for the game (34 of 81), and only 25 percent from 3-point range (7 of 28), including 3 of 15 in the second half.“They (Clark and O’Brien) are a couple of really special players and there’s not really a way to stop them, but I just wanted to make sure that we made them high-volume shooters tonight, and we did,” Monson said. “If they were going to score 20 we wanted them to take 20 shots.“I thought Jun was great (guarding Clark), I thought Alex was great (on O’Brien), we executed our game plan as well as we could. That’s a really good team down there (Southwestern) that’s going to win a lot of games, and they’re not going to lose to a lot of people, so to come out of there with a win speaks a lot for our program.”Littlejohn led all scorers with 31 points and 13 rebounds, while Murdock added 18 and Hunter 17. KWU was 33 of 61 shooting for the game for 54.1 percent, and 10 of 20 from 3-point range for 50 percent.Wesleyan now turns its attention to Tabor on Saturday inside Mabee Arena. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.“We can’t have a let down on Saturday. You come off a big road win like this, it’s pretty easy to do that,” Monson said. “We are going to have to refocus and get ready for a team that’s very dangerous and young. When you deal with young guys, it can go two different directions – either they can have a big game, or you can use your experience against them. It’ll be a challenge no matter what, every night in the KCAC, anybody can beat anybody.”