HILLSBORO — The scoreboard indicated the Kansas Wesleyan women had just upset No. 16-ranked Tabor 65-55.
For KWU coach Ryan Showman, though, the game was won well before the Coyotes left Salina on Wednesday afternoon.
“Let me back up to Monday,” Showman said. “We took Sunday off after a disappointing loss on Saturday (to Oklahoma Wesleyan), we came back Monday and had our best practice in two months. We came back Tuesday and had an even more locked in and focused practice.
“This game was won (Tuesday) night, this game was won by the focus and preparation these girls had. Tonight they just went out and made plays, they did what they knew they could do.”
“I totally agree, I think we had the best practices I’ve ever had as a Coyote on Monday,” junior guard Sydney Mortensen said.
Wesleyan (10-9 overall, 7-4 Kansas Conference) set the tone from the get-go in stunning fashion, scoring the game’s first 22 points that staked the Coyotes to a 26-4 lead after one quarter. Tabor (11-6, 8-3) missed its first nine shots and had nine turnovers the first quarter, including six on its first six possessions.
KWU led 38-22 at halftime and 52-33 after three quarters. Tabor rallied in the fourth quarter, but got no closer than the final score.
“We made plays,” Mortensen said the fast start. “Taryn Frazier stepped up and she was awesome. This was her first start here and she totally owned the momentum.”
Frazier, a senior center, started in place of the injured Maddie Miller (knee) and scored eight points the first quarter on 4 of 4 shooting. She finished with 11 points, five rebounds and two steals.
Mortensen, who scored eight and had three steals, said she and her teammates knew Tabor would come back after falling behind early.
“We knew we had a big lead, but we understood the game’s not won in the first 10 minutes. It’s a four quarter thing,” she said. “Yeah, it was awesome and great, but we still had 30 minutes to play.”
Wesleyan shot 48 percent for the game (26 of 54) while Tabor shot 35.8 percent (19 of 53). The Bluejays made just 6 of 22 shots the first half (27.3 percent), but improved to 42 percent the second half (13 of 31).
Courtney Heinen led Wesleyan with 14 points off the bench while freshman center Virja Lewis had 12 off the bench as 10 Coyotes scored. They also outrebounded Tabor 36-31.
“I tell them in practice, ‘You’re going to get your opportunities, when your numbers call, go,’” Showman said. “'Go do something positive — get a stop, grab a rebound, make a shot.' Everybody on some level on that bench impacted this game in a positive way.”
Showman also had high praise for his team’s defense.
“I thought we took them out of a lot of what they wanted to do,” he said. “I thought we did a good job keeping them off balance and switching defenses. It was total buy-in to our game plan and the preparation was there.”
Tabor men 62, KWU 46
Julian Winton scored 21 points, surpassing the 1,000-point plateau for his career in the process, and the Bluejays limited Wesleyan to 31.6 percent shooting.
The loss drops the Coyotes to 9-8 overall, 7-4 in the KCAC while Tabor improves to 9-8 and 8-3. The victory moves the Bluejays into sole possession of second place in the KCAC standings.
Wesleyan fell behind 12-4 at the start and trailed 35-24 at halftime.
The Coyotes used a 9-0 run midway through the second half to get within 43-36 with just under 12 minutes left. But Tabor answered with a 10-1 run, getting six points from Jon Manjon Beristain and six from Winton, that made it 53-37 with just under eight minutes left.
The Coyotes got no closer than nine (55-46) with 3:52 remaining.
Tabor shot 51 percent for the game (25 of 49) and forced 20 KWU turnovers. The Coyotes were 18 of 57 shooting and forced 18 Tabor turnovers.
“We had too many turnovers and we didn’t get back in transition the first half like we talked about,” KWU coach Anthony Monson said. “We didn’t pick up Julian early and on the offensive end we missed a ton of layups, too. We panicked, for whatever reason, and there was no reason to panic.
“They did a good job of coming after us and making us feel uncomfortable and we didn’t stop that. That’s the bottom line.”
Ernest Carter led Wesleyan with 12 points and six rebounds of the bench, but was the Coyotes’ only double figure scorer. Darius Hammond had seven points, and Zach Rammelt and Marquis Kraemer six apiece. KWU was just 4 of 22 beyond the 3-point arc.
Gaven Schumann scored 12 and Diontre Cutliff had 10 points and 10 rebounds for Tabor, which outscored the Coyotes 36-22 in the paint. Wesleyan had 14 offensive rebounds, but just nine second chance points.
Monson, though, was pleased with his team’s defensive effort. The Coyotes entered game as the top scoring defense in the KCAC.
“We gave up 62, so the defensive end wasn’t really the issue,” he said. “It was more the turnovers and focus on the offensive end. I knew it was important we get off to a good start and we didn’t.”