WICHITA – This defensive stuff is becoming a thing for the Kansas Wesleyan women.
Locked in a close game at halftime the Coyotes quickly took control in the second half with a suffocating defensive effort that propelled them to a 64-43 Kansas Conference victory Wednesday night inside the Garvey Center.
The victory was the fourth in a row for KWU, which improved to 13-9, 12-7 in conference play, and sets the stage for Friday’s crucial contest against Bethel at 5 p.m. inside Mabee Arena. Friends fell to 11-14 and 9-13.
The Coyotes entered the contest having held their three previous opponents to 55 points or fewer, but Wednesday’s effort might have been the best. Friends made just 6 of its 32 shots the second half – 18.8 percent. The Falcons also committed 15 turnovers that led to 16 Coyote points.
KWU led 24-22 at halftime and opened the third quarter with a 10-4 surge, then closed with a decisive 14-2 run that made it 48-30 entering the final period. Friends was 1 of 11 from the field in the quarter.
The lead ballooned to 28 (58-30) after KWU scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter.
Friends shot just 25 percent from the field for the game (15 of 60), including 4 of 17 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“I thought we were very dominant defensively for four quarters,” KWU coach Ryan Showman said on his postgame radio show. “When you put that with some pretty good offense, we’re a pretty tough team.”
Showman said the key was avoiding turnovers and forcing Friends execute its offense in the halfcourt. KWU had nine turnovers the first half but finished with 13 that led to just three Falcons’ points.
“If we made them have to score in the halfcourt, not get any runouts if we turned it over high and get offensive rebounds and put-backs in the paint, we knew we’d be in good shape because we knew they’d struggled with that this year.”
Showman said the defensive message is resonating with his team.
“This is four games in a row we’ve been really, really good,” he said. “I told them we’re going to win games at the end of the year if we can defend at an elite level and we’re doing that right now.”
Four Coyotes scored in double figures led by Amanda Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) with 15 points. Kelcey Hinz (JR/Whitewater, Kan.) had 14 and 10 rebounds, Gabby Mureeba (SO/Allen, Texas) scored 13 to go along with four assists and three steals and LaMyah Ricks (FR/Shawnee Mission, Kan.) had 10 points. KWU shot 45.6 percent (26 of 57) for the game – 7 of 18 from deep.
“I thought (assistant) coach (Carolyn) Jenkins had a really great adjustment that we made offensively at halftime that really opened up some good shots, and we finished them,” Showman said.
Friday’s game, which has been rescheduled twice, matches the third- and fourth-place teams in the conference standings – Bethel 14-6 and Wesleyan 12-7. The Threshers defeated Bethany 65-56 Wednesday in North Newton. The top four teams in the final regular season standings get first-round byes in the KCAC tournament.
“We knew Friday and Saturday’s games weren’t going to be as big if we didn’t take care of tonight,” Showman said. “Now that we got the win tonight, we can put our sights on Bethel – they’re a big hurdle standing in our way. And we know the Saturday game (against Avila) isn’t as big if we don’t take care of Friday.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity for us.”