LEAVENWORTH – Jun Murdock (SO/Wichita, Kan.) scored 30 points, but his valiant effort wasn’t quite enough as Saint Mary used a second half rally to knock off the Coyotes 72-69 on Thursday night at the Ryan Sports Center.
Murdock had 20 at the half, but was double- and triple-teamed at times in the second half making things difficult for the sophomore guard.
The game was nip and tuck the entire way, featuring 21 lead changes and nine ties throughout.
Saint Mary took the lead for good with 4:32 left when Cameron Southern hit a pair of free throws that gave the Spires a 67-66 lead. Another bucket by Brad Hailey with 3:34 left gave the Spires a 69-66 lead.
Murdock hit 1 of 2 free throws with 3:14 left as the game settled into a defensive battle down the stretch. Hailey hit 1 of 2 free throws for the Spires with 2:05 left to again give Saint Mary a three point cushion, but Murdock responded with a drive and score that cut the difference to a point with 1:41 left.
A miss by Saint Mary and a Coyote turnover gave the ball back to the Spires and Shawn Person scored with 18.4 left to give USM a 72-69 lead. Wesleyan had a chance to tie on Marcel Dean (SO/Tucson, Ariz.)’s 3, but it missed and the Coyotes were forced to foul.
Che Smith missed a free throw with 5.5 seconds left and the Coyotes rebounded and called timeout with 1.6 seconds left.
Murdock’s game-tying try was short and Saint Mary escaped with the win.
Wesleyan scored the first four points of the game, but Saint Mary answered right back to tie it at 4-4. A 3 by Murdock kept the Coyotes in the lead and Wesleyan extended the advantage to 14-8 with 14:23 left in the first on a bucket by Tyus Jeffries (SR/Oklahoma City, Okla.).
Saint Mary came back to tie it at 14-all, and take a brief 17-16 lead, but a 9-3 run by the Coyotes gave Wesleyan a 23-17 lead with 9:56 left on a bucket by Murdock.
Saint Mary led 30-28 when Murdock took over the game. He scored 15 of the next 19 for the Coyotes as Wesleyan built a 47-39 lead to open the second half with 19:40 to go.
The Spires would respond with an 11-2 run that gave Saint Mary a 50-49 lead with 14:34 to go.
The lead bounced back and forth over the next 10 minutes-plus as neither team led by more than two during the stretch.
Murdock’s 30 led all scorers in the game, while Jeffries added 12 for the Coyotes who shot 45.6 percent for the game (26 of 57) but just 27.6 percent in the second half, after shooting 64.3 percent in the first 20 minutes. Jeffries led the Coyotes with seven rebounds and five steals.
Wesleyan (17-8 overall, 12-8 KCAC) is back in action on Wednesday, hosting Avila at 8 p.m. at Mabee Arena.