The scoreboards on the east and west walls of Mabee Arena indicated Kansas Wesleyan had comfortable a 41-24 lead over Southwestern at halftime Monday night.
Coach Ryan Showman, though, wasn’t impressed. Far from it, in fact. Thirteen turnovers the first 20 minutes of the game had him shaking his head as he left the court for the break.
Showman spent one time out to vent with 6:44 left in the second quarter, but four more turnovers followed. He discussed his displeasure in much greater detail in the locker room during intermission.
“I wasn’t real happy with some of the things we were doing the first half,” he said. “Yes, we were up 17 points, but that wasn’t the point. It was the turnovers and some of the breakdowns we had defensively that we specifically talked about not doing in this game, but were doing that.”
The Coyotes got the message, opening the second half on 21-6 run and cruised to an 88-52 Kansas Conference victory.
Wesleyan improved to 14-2 in the KCAC, 16-6 overall, with its sixth consecutive victory. The Coyotes remain in third place in the conference standings, half a game behind co-leaders Sterling and Tabor, who are 15-2. Southwestern fell to 4-18 and 3-14.
KWU committed nine turnovers, shot 55 percent from the field, forced 11 Southwestern turnovers and held the Moundbuilders to 33 percent shooting the second half in a nearly-complete performance.
“The second half I thought it was all K-Dub,” Showman said.
It was and it started at the defensive end. Southwestern finished the game with 28 turnovers that included 16 KWU steals and led to 34 points. The Coyotes had 22 turnovers, but the Moundbuilders scored just 15 points as a result.
“That’s the big thing about turnovers,” Showman said. “You can force a bunch, but if you don’t do anything with them it’s wasted opportunities. I thought we did a great job not only forcing turnovers, but capitalizing on them.
“We’re not pressing a bunch, we’re not doing anything, it’s just all within our halfcourt defense. I think it was very aggressive, very physical and created a lot of that just by the way they were playing the halfcourt. It’s going to be huge going on the road this week.”
Wesleyan’s blazing start in the second half was fueled by five 3-point baskets, three by Sydney Mortensen (SR/Wichita, Kan.), who scored 15 points on 5 of 7 shooting from beyond the arc.
Courtney Heinen (JR/Axtell, Kan.) also scored 15, going 3 of 6 from long range. Amanda Hill (SO/Rossville, Kan.) scored 11 points and Virja Lewis (SO/Kansas City, Kan.) 10. Lewis, the Coyotes’ sophomore post player, was named the KCAC Offensive Player of the Week earlier in the day.
Nine others also scored in the game as the Coyotes’ bench players contributed a whopping 52 points.
Wesleyan made 12 of its 25 3-point attempts – 7 of 14 the second half – and shot 54 percent overall (35 of 65). The Coyotes also had 19 assists, led by Gabbie Miller (SR/Kiefer, Okla.) with five.
“I told the girls ‘if we’re going to have 30 turnovers we better have 30 assists’ and I thought we were a lot better the second half,” Showman said.
London Futch had 11 points and Ashley Carrillo 10 for Southwestern, which shot 37.7 percent (20 of 53) and was just 1 of 7 from 3-point territory.
The Coyotes play their next two games on the road, starting Thursday with a contest against KCAC newcomer Avila, starting at 6 p.m. in Kansas City, Mo. They travel to Leavenworth on Saturday for a 5 p.m. contest against Saint Mary. Avila (8-9, 7-9 KCAC) defeated Bethany 64-54 Monday in Kansas City.
Wesleyan defeated Avila 74-57 on Dec. 1 and Saint Mary 74-55 on Dec. 5, both games at Mabee Arena.
Southwestern 86, KWU 81
The upset-minded Kansas Wesleyan men’s basketball team came into Monday’s game against No. 10 ranked Southwestern looking to knock off the Moundbuilders just as they did the last time the two teams met in Mabee Arena.
However, a clutch shooting performance by Southwestern in the second half enabled the Moundbuilders to hold on for an 86-81 win over the Coyotes.
The Moundbuilders shot an astonishing 65.4 percent from the field in the second half, holding the Coyotes at bay down the stretch mostly thanks to several free throws.
“They just didn’t miss,” Wesleyan coach Anthony Monson said. “They were 4 of 6 from the 3-point line in the second half and shot 65 percent.
“Honestly, they had to do all that to win the game tonight, you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. It’s not easy to shoot like that against us.”
Southwestern’s Cameron Hunt became the program’s all-time leading scorer in the game, needing just 23 points to reach the milestone, closing the game with 30.
The Coyotes trailed by four at the half, 35-31, but fell behind by eight quickly to start the second half. A 3 by James Brooks (JR/Cherokee, Kan.) tied things up at 45-all, but Wesleyan again found itself trailing by six at 58-52 with 13:31 left.
Free throws by Brooks, a bucket by Peyton Hatter (FR/Andover, Kan.) and a Nathaniel Leach (JR/Houston, Texas) bucket tied things up at 58-all with 12:11 left forcing a Southwestern timeout. A bucket from AJ Range (SO/Junction City, Kan.) gave Wesleyan the lead at 11:38 left.
Southwestern retook the lead with a 3 as the teams traded the lead back and forth over the next three minutes.
Free throws by Brayden White (SO/Topeka, Kan.) put Wesleyan up 67-65, but a 7-0 run by Southwestern gave the ‘Builders the lead for good.
“I thought we did a lot of really good things, but I thought we got a little greedy when we took the lead,” Monson said. “Some guys got a little bit undisciplined and started chasing the ball and a lot of times when that happens we are able to get that ball out of there, but tonight they were able to get it out of there this time.”
The Coyotes had chances too, pulling down 16 offensive rebounds in the game, but only turned them into 11 points.
“One of the biggest things tonight is that we had 16 offensive rebounds, but only 11 second chance points,” Monson said. “That’s a heck of an effort on the offensive boards, but you have to cash those in.”
Wesleyan jumped out to a 6-2 lead to start the game, but Southwestern came back to take its first lead of the night at 10-8 with 14:20 left.
A Brooks triple sparked a 7-0 run for the Coyotes giving KWU a 15-10 lead with 13:12 left in the opening half.
“James had some pretty spectacular moments there but he’s capable of that every night he is such a good shooter,” Monson said.
The Coyotes fell behind by five before pulling within one with 3:45 left on free throws by Jordan McNelly (JR/Salina, Kan,). Southwestern took a 35-31 lead into the half.
Wesleyan was 32-of-72 from the field in the game for 44.4 percent, paced by 29 points from Brooks, while McNelly added 10 and Ithello Cross (SR/Gainesville, Ga.) had nine. Range had 10 rebounds to lead the Coyotes as both teams finished with 33 rebounds.
I thought we did a good job,” Monson said. “We just didn’t get what we needed when we needed it.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Coyotes the rest of the week, with two long road trips to Avila on Thursday in Kansas City and Saint Mary on Saturday in Leavenworth. KWU won both games with the teams earlier this season inside Mabee Arena.