Littlejohn's triple-double sparks Coyotes as KWU outlasts Friends 86-76 in overtime

Littlejohn's triple-double sparks Coyotes as KWU outlasts Friends 86-76 in overtime

 Jun Murdock was sensational in his last college basketball game in his hometown.
Another Wichita area product, Alex Littlejohn, was even better though.

Murdock, who played at Wichita Southeast High School, had 19 points and six assists and Littlejohn, a Newton native who played at Bishop Carroll High, finished with a rare triple-double – 18 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists – as Kansas Wesleyan defeated  Friends 86-76 in overtime in a Kansas Conference game Saturday night inside the Garvey Center.

KWU improved to 15-5 and 12-2 in the KCAC while Friends fell to 7-12 and 4-10.

Murdock, the Coyotes' senior point guard, played his freshman season at Friends before transferring to Wesleyan and has surpassed the 1,500-point plateau for his career. Littlejohn is a junior forward who earned NAIA Third Team All-America honors last season.

Their contributions along with others were essential in helping KWU get past the upset-minded Falcons in a grinding seesaw battle.

The game was tied 71-71 at the end of regulation but the Coyotes took control in the extra period with nine unanswered points. Littlejohn scored six in overtime.

"Where we're at the in the conference (tied for second) we're going to get everybody's best shot every single night," KWU coach Anthony Monson said. "We saw that Wednesday night against Bethel (a 72-69 victory), we saw that here at Friends and we're going to see it for the rest of the year. Hats off to the guys for responding, being resilient and finding a way to win."

"We know we're going to get everybody's best shot," Murdock said. "We wouldn't want it any other way, we want to be in those type of fights."

The lead changed hands nine times and the game was tied five times after intermission.

A 13-4 run gave Friends a 54-48 lead with just under 13 minutes left, but KWU responded with a 12-5 surge and led 62-59 with 6½ minutes remaining. The Falcons answered against with a 7-0 run and led 68-65 with just under four minutes left but Wesleyan scored the next four and were up 69-68.

Tim Barbieri gave Friends a 70-69 with a basket with 1:13 left before Murdock put KWU back on top with a basket with 46 seconds left. Friends' KJ Spiller, who scored a game-high 24 points, tied it at 71 by making one of two free throws with 24.1 seconds. 

Murdock's 3-point shot in the waning seconds just missed, sending the game into overtime.

The teams traded baskets to start the extra period before KWU pulled away. An Easton Hunter 3-pointer was followed by a Littlejohn three-point play, a Littlejohn free throw and an Izaiah Hale basket gave the Coyotes an 82-73 lead with 49 seconds left.

"We had to get (defensive) stops," Littlejohn said. "We were letting them score and that was taking away from our offense. We knew if we got stops the offense was become so much more easy for us."

Littlejohn was surprised he had a triple-double.

"That's crazy," he said. "People were making shots and I was finding them (for the 11 assists). That's all on my teammates, I can't make the shots for them."

"He was really good once we got the ball down to him," Monson said of Littlejohn. "Guys did a good job cutting and he did a good job finding them. He was very unselfish tonight, and he did a good job of not settling for jump shots like he did the other night. To have a triple-double is pretty incredible."

Thurbil Bile continued his recent offensive surge scoring 15 while Hale, who also hails from Wichita, had 11 points and four rebounds. Easton Hunter, who's from nearby Andale, had nine on three 3-pointers.

"It's a special night for a lot of these guys," Monson said. "This program's been built with a lot of Wichita kids."

KWU shot 58.2 percent (32 of 55), had 23 assists and committed just eight turnovers.

Barbieri added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Friends, which shot 42 percent (28 of 67) and won the rebounding battle 37-31 that included 14 offensive rebounds.

"Friends came out with some energy and they played really well tonight," Murdock said. "We struggled with some things but I'm glad we were able to come together and get it done in overtime."

Murdock said he enjoys playing in his hometown.

"Every time I come here it's always a special game for me," he said. "My mom's able to come to this game and that's why I look forward to it. I was able to see her and everybody (in the stands) and this being my last game here it was real special."

The Coyotes play Evangel at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in Springfield, Missouri in their next outing. The Valor (10-9, 8-6 KCAC) defeated Tabor 86-75 Saturday in Hillsboro.

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