The difference between Kansas Wesleyan and Southwestern came down to making shots – the Moundbuilders did so, most notably Troy Baker, while KWU struggled.
Baker’s turnaround jump shot from 12 feet out with 3.2 seconds left propelled Southwestern to a 70-68 Kansas Conference victory over the Coyotes Wednesday night inside Mabee Arena.
Baker, a 6-foot-8 senior forward who was averaging 10.0 points, finished with a game-high 20 points on 8 of 12 shooting that included 3 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He was 6 of 19 from deep entering the game.
Southwestern, which was shooting 37 percent from long range as a team, was 9 of 15 Wednesday and shot 49 percent overall (24 of 49).
Wesleyan (7-6 overall, 5-4 KCAC) shot 39 percent (23 of 59) overall and was 7 of 26 beyond the arc.
“We did not shoot the ball well,” Monson said. “Coming out of the break we didn’t shoot the ball like we had in the past couple of games (before the break).
“They shot 60 percent from the 3-point line and you’re probably going to lose that game almost every single time.”
Monson was impressed with Baker’s effort.
“You’ve got to give Troy Baker a lot of credit,” he said. “He hit a ton of shots tonight that he hasn’t done since he’s been at Southwestern. He just stepped up and made plays for them.”
The game was closely contested from start to finish and featured 13 ties – seven the final 6:20 – and there were 10 lead changes. Southwestern (8-5, 4-3 KCAC) led 33-31 at halftime.
KWU took a 64-63 lead on two AJ Range (SR/Junction City, Kan.) free throws with 2:26 left in the game but Southwestern went back on top 66-64 lead on a Baker free throw and Quintin Wallace’s follow shot. Two Nate Leach (SR/Houston, Texas) free throws with 1:28 left tied it again at 66 before Zhahidi Robinson’s basket with 1:03 remaining gave the Moundbuilders a 68-66 lead.
The Coyotes tied it one final time on two Gabe Mack (JR/Milwaukee, Wis.) free throws with 22.2 seconds left. After a time, out Baker got the ball on right wing and tried to drive to the baseline but was cutoff.
He stopped, spun around and launched his game-winning shot from just outside the lane.
Range led KWU with 12 points and five rebounds while Mack and CJ Weathers (JR/Allen, Texas) scored 11 apiece. Leach and Jackson Maupin (FR/Argyle, Texas) had nine points each – Maupin’s coming on 3 of 3 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
“He can really, really shoot it,” Monson said of Maupin. “He’s coming off (knee surgery). He’s got a lot of confidence in his shot and the guys have a lot of confidence in him as well. He hit a couple of big ones in the first half and a really big one in the second half, late in the game.”
The Coyotes were without their second-leading scorer Tyus Jeffries (JR/Oklahoma City, Okla.), who’s out with an injury.
“Tyus is a starter and he’s one of our best defensive players and does some really good things for us,” Monson said. “We didn’t have him tonight and that’s okay. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys that we have in this program and they’re all here for a reason.”
Southwestern outrebounded the Coyotes 36-24 but had 18 turnovers that led to 15 KWU points. Wesleyan had just six turnovers.
“We haven’t played in a while (24 days) and that was their fourth game (since January 6),” Monson said. “I know we were a little bit rusty, obviously, coming out of the break.”
KWU travels to Ottawa for a 5 p.m. game Saturday inside Wilson Field House. The Braves play Saint Mary Thursday night in Leavenworth. Wesleyan defeated Ottawa 95-93 December 7 in Mabee Arena.