HILLSBORO _ Picking up the intensity level in the first half enabled Kansas Wesleyan to stay close to Tabor. Maintaining that intensity in the second half allowed the Coyotes to pull away for a much-needed victory.
Wesleyan used a solid inside-outside combination to eventually get some breathing room in the final 10 minutes on the way to a 72-59 victory Wednesday night at the Tabor College gym.
"I feel like we came out not playing as hard as we could," Wesleyan sophomore Brayden White said. "We picked it up but the shots weren't falling.
"We continued to battle and fight. We like to say it starts at the defensive end and that's where we picked it up tonight."
The Coyotes (7-7 overall, 5-5 KCAC) trailed 12-2 in the first six minutes when head coach Anthony Monson used an early timeout. Tabor (4-12, 2-8) scored only 16 points the rest of the half and the Coyotes were able to close the gap to two (28-26) at halftime.
"I thought they came out fired up and hit a lot of shots," Monson said of the Bluejays. "We were ready but we didn't expect them to do that.
"We got a lot of open looks but couldn't hit them for whatever reason. Eventually those shots are going to go in and they did in the second half."
White, a starting guard, played less than three minutes in the first half after picking up two quick fouls. He had three 3-pointers in the first six minutes of the second half to help Wesleyan get started.
White's third 3-pointer from well above the top of the key put the Coyotes up 39-36 and it was a lead they never relinquished.
"That's the second game in a row I've been in foul trouble early," White said. "Coach said to stay in there so the second half I wanted to contribute. I knocked down some shots and my teammates were finding me."
After White's 3-pointer put Wesleyan in front for good, the Coyotes next 16 points came inside from forwards A.J. Range and Jordan McNelly.
Both Range and McNelly had offensive rebounds and follow shots in that stretch, with Range following his own miss with a bucket to make it 55-47 with 5:55 remaining.
Two free throws from White and a three-point play from Marquis Kraemer extended the lead to 60-47 with 4:15 to play.
"We were really focusing on playing inside-out," White said. "We have some of the best bigs in the conference and when defenses collapse on them, it allows our guards to get better looks."
"We went inside the first half and it just didn't work," Monson said. "Those guys are good players and we told them at halftime they can't be intimidated by their guys down low."
James Brooks had four of Wesleyan's eight 3-pointers and led the team with 16 points. McNelly finished with 14, Range had 12 points and seven rebounds, and White had 11 points.
"Even though the score doesn't necessarily reflect it, I thought it was our most complete game at both ends of the floor," Monson said.
Shawntez Scroggins led Tabor with 15 points and Darnell Jones-Bowie had 12.
Tabor women 69, Wesleyan 63
Wesleyan women's coach Ryan Showman could look past his team's mistakes on offense, if only the Coyotes had given a better effort on the defensive end.
Tabor used a 10-2 run late in the game to get some distance from Wesleyan and held on for a victory. The win moved the Bluejays (11-3 overall, 8-2 conference) into a tie for second with the Coyotes (10-6, 8-2) in the KCAC and ended Wesleyan's seven-game win streak against conference opponents.
"Obviously that was two really good teams," Showman said. "This game was everything we thought it would be and as close as we thought it would be."
Wesleyan committed 24 turnovers, six of those in the fourth quarter of a close game. But Showman was more disappointed with his team's effort on the defensive end than the miscues on offense.
"We need to defend better and that can offset a lot of those turnovers," Showman said. "The fact that we fouled 24 times and let them shoot 30 free throws ... that's the game right there."
Tabor missed its first and last free throw attempt in the fourth quarter, but inbetween made 14 in a row.
The Coyotes took their last lead on a basket from reserve Courtney Heinen with 3:27 to play to make it 59-58. Tabor scored the next six points, getting a bucket from Taylor Deniston and two free throws each from Morgan Ediger and Deziray Turner to go up 64-59.
The Coyotes turned the ball over twice in that stretch, but two Heinen free throw with 33 seconds to play made it a one-possession game, 64-61. Deniston made four straight free throws on the next two Tabor possessions to put the game away.
Deniston and Kristyn Wedel had 15 points each for the Bluejays.
"They didn't do anything we didn't see on film or practice for," Showman said. "Yes they are a good team and executed very well, but we had some breakdowns that allowed them to get baskets at the rim. Either that or we fouled."
Heinen had a season-high 23 points and was the only KW player in double figures. Virja Lewis had nine points and 11 rebounds, and the Coyotes finished with a 40-31 rebounding advantage.
"Courtney Heinen had an absolute monster game and hit some baskets to keep us in it," Showman said "We won the rebounding battle and shot a fairly good percentage. We did enough to win the game offensively even with the turnovers."