Coyotes rally past No. 9 Southwestern 96-93 in overtime

Coyotes rally past No. 9 Southwestern 96-93 in overtime

Anthony Monson's shirt was drenched with water. An exhausted Jun Murdock leaned against a wall outside the Coyotes' locker room as he answered questions – his teammates reveling inside in a raucous postgame celebration.

It was a night the Coyotes and their fans won't soon forget.

Murdock scored a career-best 35 points and Alex Littlejohn had 31 points and 14 rebounds as Wesleyan defeated ninth-ranked Southwestern 96-93 in overtime in a frenetic and frantic Kansas Conference game before a large and loud crowd Saturday night inside Mabee Arena.

The victory was in stark contrast to the Coyotes' 72-57 loss to Saint Mary on Wednesday in Leavenworth following a week-long layoff. Saturday's conquest was their second over the Moundbuilders this season and fifth in a row overall.

"This team is just tough," said Murdock who scored 29 in the second half and overtime periods. "I feel like we play hard, we're never going to give up no matter the situation we're in. We know they're a good team but we're also a good team and we knew we had to get this one tonight."

KWU improved to 18-7 overall, 14-4 in the KCAC; Southwestern fell to 21-4 and 16-3.

Wesleyan trailed 80-70 with less than four minutes left in regulation but stormed back, drawing even 81-81 on Thurbil Bile's rebound and basket from 15 feet out with 15 seconds left. Southwestern's Cevin Clark, the NAIA's leading scorer, missed a 3-point shot as time expired.

Trailing 89-87 with 1:47 left in overtime KWU scored six of the next eight points, Murdock accounting for four of them. Southwestern got within two twice, 92-91 and 94-93, but Izaiah Hale and Murdock each hit the second of two free throws attempts – Murdock's coming with 8.5 seconds left that made it 96-93.

After a time out Clark, who finished with 38 points, missed a guard 3-point shot but teammate Justin DeMaria grabbed the rebound and launched a 3-pointer from the left baseline that rattled out as the horn sounded.

KWU trailed 45-36 at halftime after shooting 38.7 percent (12 of 31) the first half. The Coyotes shot 56.8 percent in the second half and overtime (21 of 37) by opting to attack the rim more often.

"I think sometimes we become too much of a finesse team and we bail teams out," Monson said. "We want to hit jump shots and 3-pointers. If you want to win the down the stretch and, in the postseason, you've got to get to the basket and you've got to be tough. Wednesday night when we were playing Saint Mary, we weren't very physically tough."

Murdock managed to stay in the game after picking up his fourth foul with 11:13 remaining. He went to the bench but returned four minutes later, scored 21 points and defended Clark the rest of the way without fouling out. Clark was 16 of 29 from the field including 2 of 7 from beyond the 3-point line.

"It's a big deal for him to play those last seven-and-a-half minutes guarding Cevin Clark and finding ways to make plays," Monson said.

"It was kind of tough especially with a scorer like that on their team. Cevin really knows how to score," Murdock said. "But that's the game and as long as I can play it's all good."

Murdock was 10 of 20 from the field and 15 of 17 at the line to go along with five assists and three steals. Littlejohn was 10 of 17 shooting (2 of 3 from long distance) and 9 of 11 at the foul line.

Littlejohn, who had 31 points and 13 rebounds in the first game against Southwestern, scored 11 in the first half then scored the first 11 points of the second half. He scored nine consecutive points later in the half as well.

"Me and Alex always tell each other to just be aggressive," Murdock said. "We're at our best when he's being aggressive and when I'm being aggressive that helps even more. They were letting us into the paint and that's where we were getting easy buckets."

The Coyotes committed just eight turnovers and were 26 of 31 at the foul line. Southwestern won the rebounding battle 37-34 but had been outrebounding its opponents by an average of 12 per game.

"This team is mentally tough beyond their years," Monson said. "This team mentally has lost some teammates and had to battle back through things, and they still haven't lost two straight games in a long time. Physically we're not very tough but mentally these guys are warriors."

The Coyotes close out the regular season with three games next week starting with a rescheduled contest against Ottawa at 7 p.m. Monday in Mabee Arena. The Braves (15-10, 10-9 KCAC) defeated Friends 86-73 Saturday in Ottawa.

KWU travels to Hillsboro for a game against Tabor at 8 p.m. Wednesday and finishes with a contest against York at 7 p.m. Saturday in Mabee Arena.

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