Kansas Wesleyan women’s coach Ryan Showman knew there would be some growing pains for his young team early in the season.
A rugged road-heavy schedule didn’t favor the Coyotes so their 0-5 start, while disappointing, wasn’t a complete surprise.
Showman, though, saw signs of improvement in KWU’s Kansas Conference opening loss to Bethany on Wednesday and sensed better times were just ahead.
He was right.
The Coyotes shot 52.5 percent, five scored in double figures and an overwhelming rebounding advantage paved the way to an 84-63 KCAC victory over Bethel on Saturday night inside Mabee Arena.
KWU (1-5, 1-1 KCAC) built a 41-17 halftime advantage and led by as many as 35 points (79-44) in the fourth quarter in dismantling the Threshers.
“I think we had an understanding of a new team, new players, new roles, tough schedule,” Showman said. “That’s not a great combination going into the season and I thought we handled that part well. I know we went 0-4 in the non-conference but we got better, we learned a lot about ourselves.”
Bethel scored the game’s first two points but the next 22 belonged to the Coyotes and they led 24-6 after one quarter. Scoring runs of 8-0 and 6-0 in the second quarter staked them to the 24-point halftime lead.
The third quarter featured 10-0 and 10-2 bursts that gave KWU a 70-39 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
“I thought we played well enough to win on Wednesday but we didn’t get it done,” Showman said. “We’ve got competitors in that locker room, man. I know we don’t talk about ‘we’ve got to win, we’ve got to win’ but I know that’s why they compete – they want to win and I think that’s what you saw tonight.”
Wesleyan was 22 of 54 from the field, including 6 of 14 from beyond the 3-point arc, and outrebounded the Threshers by a whopping 51-21 margin.
Caila Hill (SR/Rossville, Kan.) led the scoring parade with 18 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Jill Stephens (SO/Colby, Kan.) added 13 points, Angel Roman (SO/Jacksonville, Fla.) 12 and LaMyah Ricks (JR/Shawnee Mission, Kan.) and Kourtney Kaufman (SO/Moundridge, Kan.) 11 each – Stephens, Roman and Kaufman coming off the bench as KWU’s reserves combined for 45 points. Stephens and Kaufman each made three 3-pointers.
Stephens and Tylieea Wallace (SO/Overland Park, Kan.) had 10 rebounds apiece and Hill eight.
The Coyotes remained upbeat despite the losses, according to Hill.
“Coaches have done a really good job of picking out all the positive things that we’ve done throughout the games even though we lost,” she said. “Finding all the positives in our losses has really helped us in accomplishing this today.
“It’s definitely put a spark under us to know that we can beat teams and we have the capability to beat them by 30.”
Bethel shot 40.7 percent for the game (22 of 54) but just 25 percent the first half (6 of 24).
“A lot of those turnovers we converted (into points) and were able to get our lead so the defense was really great,” Showman said. “Even when they were kind of making a comeback and turning us over a little bit, I still thought we were tough in the halfcourt and we did what we had to do defensively.”
Turnovers were a bugaboo for both teams. The Coyotes had 28 that led to 24 Bethel points while the Threshers committed 21 that resulted in 25 KWU points.
Josie Stupey led Bethel (1-5, 0-2) with 19 points.
“It’s something definitely to build on, it was such a total team effort,” Showman said. “There are things to get better at but it sure will be nice to watch that film after the win.”
The Coyotes play Friends at 6 p.m. Tuesday inside Mabee Arena before an eight-day Thanksgiving break.