It’s a basketball game the McPherson College men desperately had to have.
And they got it.
Sitting at 0-2 in the KCAC, the Bulldogs could ill afford to lose another game at home this early in the season.
The task was daunting as Oklahoma Wesleyan came to town Tuesday as one of the four teams off to a 2-0 KCAC start.
As has been the case since conference play started, there was little separation between the Bulldogs and their opponent.
But unlike the last two games, the Bulldogs were able to close it out strong for an 81-73 victory.
The game featured six lead changes and nine ties just in the first half, which ended with the Bulldogs up 38-37. But after a DeAndre Henson 3-pointer with 16:38 left, the Bulldogs never trailed again and even pushed the lead to as many as 12.
“Honestly, we’re two possessions away from being undefeated,” said Mac coach Tim Swartzendruber, whose team is 5-2 overall with the only losses both coming in the final seconds to Bethany and Kansas Wesleyan. “It was good to get a win. Oklahoma Wesleyan was on the other side of the stick. They beat Friends on a last-second shot and beat St. Mary by three, so they had won a couple of close games.”
The difference in the outcome was execution. The Bulldogs did a tremendous job of running their offense efficiently, making 29 of 58 shots and turned it over only 10 times. The Eagles were more of a highlight-reel team with some spectacular shots, but were just 31 of 71 from the field.
Chris Crook, who has settled into his super-sub role, scored 20 points off the bench to lead Mac, while Henson scored 16 and Thomas Butler chipped in with 10. Reed Rowell, who had missed the last two games with an injury, was the key in the first half as he scored all 9 of his points before the break.
“I was really proud of our guys,” Swartzendruber said. “Second half we really got it going. We were a little shaky at the end, but we held on and got the win.”
Anietie Jack led the Eagles with 21 points and the electric Breiman Alexander added 17, but was just 7 of 20 from the field as the Bulldogs hounded him constantly.
Mac will head to Hastings, Neb., for a weekend tournament, playing Hastings on Friday and Doane on Saturday as both teams will offer top-flight competition.
Mac (81) — Gurley 2, Butler 10, Henson 16, Bachura 8, Raleigh 8, Crook 20, Windholz 3, Munsey 2, O’Hara 3, Rowell 9.
Oklahoma Wesleyan (73) — Jack 21, Alexander 17, Davis 7, Lawrence 6, Bowers 7, Feickert 7, Schuessler 6, Everett 2.
• MAC WOMEN 65, OKLAHOMA WESLEYAN 60 — Down 60-56 with 2:19 left in the game, the Bulldogs staged an amazing finish by scoring the game’s final 9 points to improve to 2-1 in the KCAC and 6-2 overall.
Oklahoma Wesleyan had entered the game receiving votes in the NAIA national poll. The Eagles were up 36-29 at the half, but the Bulldogs’ best third quarter of the year wiped out that lead and Mac was up 50-42 after unleashing a 21-6 run.
The Eagles, though, began the fourth quarter with an 18-6 sizz before the Bulldogs put the game away as Danielle Holt scored on an old-fashioned 3-point play to give them a 62-60 lead and Cami Richardson made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 24 seconds.
“That was really good to see for them to get over that (Saturday’s 64-33 loss to Kansas Wesleyan),” Mac coach Gordon Reimer said. “They put forth a lot better effort today and showed that we are a pretty good basketball team.”
Amanda Allen came off the bench to key Mac’s third-quarter surge as she scored 9 points in the period and Holt added 8. Holt and Richardson, both freshmen, shared team scoring honors with 13 points and Allen scored 11.
Tiffany Rieger and Kayla Morgan scored 11 apiece to lead OW. The Eagles lived and died by the 3-pointer, shooting a solid 6 of 15 in the first half, but just 2 of 15 in the second half. Their 30 3-point attempts was nearly half of their entire shots for the game.
Mac now has some much-needed time off as it doesn’t play again until a week from Thursday at Bethel.
Mac (65) — Holt 13, Coe 9, Racette 2, Richardson 13, Battle 4, Bacon 3, Van Doselaar 3, Milum 7, Allen 11.
Oklahoma Wesleyan (60) — Gitau 3, Kirby 7, Rieger 11, Morgan 11, Hart 9, Dyer 2, Pospichal 2, Been 7, Merchant 2, Hutchins 4, Short 2.