Coyotes continue strong start to season, beat Columbia 80-69


COLUMBIA, Mo. – The Kansas Wesleyan Coyotes led by 17 points at halftime thanks in large part to AJ Range (SR / Junction City, Kan.). Cory Kaplan (SO / Merritt Island, Fla.) Kept KWU holding onto their advantage in the second half.

Range scored 19 points in the first half and Kaplan had 16 in the second to lead the Coyotes to an 80-69 non-conference victory Saturday afternoon inside the Southwell compound.

Wesleyan improved to 12-1 with his sixth straight victory. The Coyotes conclude the first half with a Kansas Conference game against Avila on Monday starting at 8 p.m. in Kansas City, Missouri. The women’s match starts at 6 p.m.

The 12-1 start to the season is tied for the second best start to the season in program history with the 1976 squad, coached by Randy St. Clair; and the 1915 team coached by William Journey. Only Wally Forsberg’s team in 1950 had a better 13-game start to the season, going 13-0, en route to a 22-2 and a NAIA National Championship appearance that season.

Range, the veteran KWU position, dominated the game in the first half with 8 of 9 field goal attempts, including two 3-pointers, as the Coyotes made their way to the locker room with a 43-26 lead on the intermission.

Kaplan’s three-point play with 17:10 left in the game increased the lead to 51-29 but Columbia retaliated with a 10-0 push that took the score to 51-39 with 13:40 to player.

Trailing 62-47, the Cougars reduced the deficit to single digits, 62-53, with 10:06 remaining. They’ve come close seven times on three occasions in the last 3½ minutes – the last 76-69 with 1:15 to go.

Wesleyan, however, finished with four free throws in the final 39.9 seconds as Kaplan and Range deservedly made two free throws apiece.

Range finished with a season-high 25 points on 8 of 12 shots and 7 of 9 at the free throw line. He also notched a record 10 rebounds.

Kaplan was 6 of 12 on the field in the second half and finished with 23 of 9 of 18 shots, including two 3-pointers (2 of 5) and 3 of 4 at the foul line. Jun Murdock (SO / Wichita, Kan.) Added 10 points, five assists and four steals.

The Coyotes shot 53 percent in the first half (18 of 34) and 48.4 percent for the game (30 of 62). They also made 14 of 19 free throw attempts and won the rebound battle 36-32.

Columbia (7-8) shot 51.6% in the second half (16 of 31) and 47.5% for the game (28 of 59). The Cougars entered the competition with an average of 80 points.

Kemryn Jenkins, a guard and transfer from McPherson College where he played for two seasons, led Columbia with 17 points while Chima Oduocha added 16 points and nine rebounds. Jenkins and Oduocha have scored 10 points each in the last 20 minutes.

Avila improved to 5-8 overall, 5-4 in the KCAC, with a 65-45 victory over Saint Mary on Saturday afternoon at Leavenworth. The Coyotes, who are 7-1 in conference, defeated Saint Mary 75-71 Wednesday inside Mabee Arena.

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