Inside Mabee Arena, it’s Alex Littlejohn (SO/Newton, Kan.)’s world, and the rest of us just live in it.
Kansas Wesleyan’s superb sophomore scored 24 points and pulled down a career high 19 rebounds on Wednesday night as the No. 17 ranked Coyotes knocked off the No. 4 ranked Southwestern Moundbuilders 83-77 in front of a large, boisterous and supportive crowd inside Mabee Arena.
Littlejohn however, was just grateful that the Coyotes got the win, despite filling up the final box score.
“I just wanted to do whatever I could to help my team win. I got a lot of buckets early,” he said. “My teammates got me the ball and I made my shots. I just do whatever I can to help the team win, and we got the win, that’s all I care about.”
Littlejohn also knew it would be a daunting task against the Moundbuilders.
“We knew they were good, but we knew we were better. We just had to show it,” he said. “We just went out and got stops. Stops lead to run outs and run outs lead to buckets. We knew all we had to do was get as many stops as we could, get the rebounds and go score on offense, because we knew we could get the buckets. We knew all we had to do was play defense.”
Coyote head coach Anthony Monson agreed.
“We wanted this one. We knew how big it was going in, especially since we play each other once. It was kind of that winner-take-all playoff atmosphere,” he said after the game. “We have to give a hats off to our student section tonight, they were rocking, we gave them something to cheer for.”
“We just wanted it. Part of this comes from just constantly having to get our respect. Those two teams, Oklahoma Wesleyan and Southwestern have dominated this league for a couple years now and we are trying to get up to where they are and I feel tonight was a good step forward to that. It doesn’t mean anything if you keep laying eggs right out of the gate.”
The Coyotes bolted out to a 9-0 lead in the game’s first two minutes plus capped by a triple by Easton Hunter (JR/Colwich, Kan.). The Coyotes built the lead out to 15-4 with 15:46 to go on free throws by Littlejohn.
Southwestern missed its first five shots all strongly contested by the Coyotes, part of Wesleyan’s game plan.
“I felt like we executed the game plan really well. We forced shots and made them shoot shots we wanted them to shoot,” Monson said. “But you’re not going to keep a team that’s as talented as them down that long, that’s not going to happen.”
Southwestern came back getting within five at 28-23 with 10:50 to go in the first on a three by Trey Abasolo. The Coyotes scored the next six to push the lead back out to 11 at 34-23 with 8:08 left on a bucket by Thurbil Bile (JR/Centennial, Colo.).
Littlejohn’s score with 27 seconds left gave the Coyotes a 48-35 lead at the half.
Wesleyan scored the first five points of the second half, pushing the lead out to 18, but Southwestern pressed back, cutting the difference to 11 at 57-46 with 14:27 left in the game. Wesleyan responded with a 7-0 charge to retake an 18-point margin with 11:39 to go capped by Trey Duffey (JR/Topeka, Kan.)’s rebound and basket.
Southwestern again fought back, cutting the difference to nine at 69-60 with 6:33 to go, and down to four with 2:55 left.
The Coyotes scored the next four, on a bucket by Jun Murdock (JR/Wichita, Kan.) with 1:55 left and a pair of Littlejohn free throws with 48 seconds left.
“We did what we needed to do, and we made the plays we needed to make to win the game. I’m proud of our guys tonight,” Monson said.
Wesleyan improved to 16-1 on the season, 10-1 in the KCAC with the win, while Southwestern fell to 15-2 overall, 9-2 in the conference.
Wesleyan was 31 of 65 shooting for the game for 47.7 percent after hitting on a blistering 19 of 32, 59.4 percent pace in the first half. Hunter added 18 for the Coyotes, while Murdock, who was honored for scoring his 1000th career point before the game, added 14. Cory Kaplan (JR/Merritt Island, Fla.) had eight, as did Duffey, who added six rebounds.
The Coyotes begin a 4-game road trip on Saturday at McPherson to close out the first half of KCAC play. KWU then heads to Bethany next Wednesday. The Coyotes return home January 28 against Avila.