LINDSBORG — A defensive battle was not what was expected when Southwestern came into Hahn Gym Wednesday night, but that’s the way it turned out as the No. 6-ranked Builders escaped with a 67-57 win over Bethany.
Southwestern was held 25 points under its season scoring average and could not shake the pesky Swedes until late. The Moundbuilders closed the first half of the conference season at 10-1, 17-2 overall. Bethany slipped to 2-9, 6-13.
Coming off a disheartening effort Saturday against Sterling, Bethany coach Dan O’Dowd was far more pleased with his team’s effort in this one.
“I think the guys took the message we delivered after Saturday’s game in the right way,” he said. “They really were focused in practice the last couple days and had great preparation leading into tonight.
“I thought our guys really competed and battled — we just didn’t make enough shots and we were trying to get to the free throw line and just couldn’t get there.”
The Swedes shot 25.9 percent from the field and still were down only single digits in the final minute. Much of that shooting percentage wasn’t to blame on bad shot selection — it was in part of getting the ball to the rim and running into the host of rim protectors the Builders have to throw at an opponent.
With 6-foot-8 junior Brett Smith leading the way, Southwestern swatted away 11 total shots at the rim.
“They’ve got great length and they’re very disciplined and that made it tough for us to go inside and finish at the rim,” O’Dowd said. “Unfortunately we probably tried that too many times when we should have kicked it out to other guys on the perimeter.”
The Moundbuilders led 36-25 at halftime, but when the second half got underway, Thomas Hood, Tyler Larkin and Mitch Brown keyed a quick 8-0 run and pulled Bethany within three.
After a quick timeout to regroup, the Builders were able to push their advantage to as much as 14 points (59-45) with less than five minutes to go.
Larkin, Baptiste Chazelas and Isiah Saenz combined for a 10-4 run to get the Swedes within seven, 62-55 with 53 seconds left.
Cameron Hunt paced the Builders with 24 points. Larkin finished with 14 to lead Bethany while Hood and Saenz each ended with 12.
Southwestern women 63, Bethany 54
A projected temperature slip into a deep freeze for Kansas hadn’t arrived Wednesday evening, but Southwestern brought its own version of the deep freeze in the form of a 2-3 zone defense.
The game ended the first half of the KCAC round robin for both clubs with the Swedes dropping to 6-5, 10-8 overall. The Builders, who entered the night tied for 10th in the conference, improved to 3-8, 4-15.
“Southwestern did a great job of bothering our shooters,” Bethany coach Keith Ferguson said. “They did a great job of not making us play very well.
“We missed some shots that we’ve been hitting and we did some stuff that was a little uncharacteristic for us and again, give Southwestern all the credit. They came in and played really well.”
So effective was the Builder zone that the Swedes managed to hit only 26 percent in the first half (8 of 30) and 20 of 65 for the game (30.8 percent).
Bethany held small leads much of the third frame, but a 6-1 run to close the quarter got Southwestern back on top 46-41.
The Builders added seven unanswered points to start the fourth quarter to extend that lead to 12 points.
Jordyn Miller, the leading scorer in the KCAC with a 19.11 average, finished with 18 points, including three of Southwestern's nine 3-pointers.