Coyote men advance to KCAC quarter-finals after 102-59 win over Tabor
The Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes aren’t ready for the end of their season and Cory Kaplan is doing his best to make sure that’s not the case.
Kaplan unleashed a spectacular shooting display on Tuesday night, making 10 of 11 shots including 6 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc and finishing with a season-high 26 points. Three others also scored in double digits as KWU took control from the start and earned a 102-59 win over Tabor in the first round of the Kansas Conference Tournament inside Mabee Arena.
The fifth-seeded Coyotes, who won for the seventh time in nine games, advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals and a game against fourth-seeded Ottawa at 7 p.m. in Ottawa. The Braves (21-10) beat Sterling 93-70 on Tuesday.
Leading 16-10, Wesleyan went 17-0 and led 33-10 with 8:49 left in the half. Kaplan scored 15 points in the first 10½ minutes of the game and propelled the Coyotes to a 46-23 halftime lead.
The intermission did nothing to calm him down as he opened the second half with three straight 3-pointers – KWU’s first five field goals of the half came from beyond the arc of 3 points.
The Coyotes were a dazzling 16 of 26 from deep for the game (61.5%) and 38 of 63 overall (60.3%).
“I just had good looks, my teammates found me when I was open, so I did something,” Kaplan said. “I hit the gym several times today and it paid off.”
Kaplan said he and his teammates played with a sense of urgency.
“Winning or going home definitely puts something on our minds,” he said. “Obviously we don’t want the season to end, so we’re all going as hard as we can and finishing as strong as we can.”
“Cory really got us started early and gave us a boost,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said. “I think we moved the ball well, I think we got some good shots and we were just locked in and focused from the start. I think we did a really good job of finding a rhythm and staying in a rhythm .
“We had a great warm-up and the guys were ready to go. It’s tournament time and that’s how we reacted in the first game.”
Alex Littlejohn also had a big game finishing with 16 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
“He’s ultra-talented,” Monson said. “Other than Oklahoma rookie Wesleyan (Derrick Talton Jr.), he’s the best rookie in the league. He plays meaningful minutes and he can do things in so many different ways. He feels comfortable, he has faith in himself and he believes in himself.”
CJ Weathers added 13 points and Jun Murdock 10 as 12 Coyotes scored in the game.
KWU edged Tabor by a whopping 43-22 margin and had 15 second-chance points on 11 offensive rebounds.
“We did a good job on the glass,” Monson said. “We just kind of beat them.”
Defense was also a factor, according to Monson. Tabor shot 39% (22 of 56), 5 of 13 from the perimeter and had 18 turnovers that led to 29 Coyote points. James Aboaba led the Bluejays (8-20) with 15 points.
“The defense takes the pressure off the offensive side,” Monson said. “Basketball is always a game of adjustments and we adjusted a few things. We didn’t guard very well, we let too many 3-point shots. We needed something to get us back up and make things a little harder for people.”
KWU and Ottawa parted ways during the regular season, each winning at home.
“We definitely have to stop on the defensive end, they’re all athletic and can shoot,” Kaplan said of the Braves. “We definitely have to focus on the defensive end.”
“They’re going to be ready to go too,” Monson said. “The game is going to mean a lot for both teams and we just have to find a way to be one point better.”