SALINA — Jamon Fulton’s focus wasn’t entirely on the matter at hand, his thoughts on the loss of loved ones who previously passed away this time of year.
It showed during a sluggish first half when he didn’t score, missing both shots he took and committing two turnovers in eight-plus minutes of play.
Suffice it to say Fulton was an entirely different and totally focused player coming out of the locker room.
“I couldn’t let them down the second half and had to turn it up,” said Fulton, Kansas Wesleyan’s senior point guard.
Turn it up he did, to inferno levels.
Fulton scored 11 consecutive points in one stretch and had 16 points during an incredible 33-4 second half run that propelled Wesleyan to a 95-77 Kansas Conference victory over rival Bethany on Saturday night before a large and raucous crowd at Mabee Arena.
Fulton credited the turnaround to coach Anthony Monson’s passionate halftime discussion with him.
“Coach came in and he was fired up,” Fulton said. “That’s the most fired up I’ve ever seen him at halftime. It stirred something in us and gave us the energy and we came out and ran with it.”
“Senior stepped up in a big moment after having a bad first half,” Monson said. “I did a little bit of challenging at halftime with him and he responded great.
“Truth is Jamon’s been pretty good all year, pretty consistent, but he doesn’t do things like this. Tonight he got us jump started and we rode that emotion and it was a lot of fun.”
Wesleyan (3-3, 1-1 KCAC) led by 12 points twice the first half before Bethany closed the half on a 10-2 run – the last three points on a 3-point basket by Tyler Larkin with three seconds left – and led 42-41 at the break.
The Swedes (3-6, 0-2) had a 50-46 lead with 17 ½ minutes left when KWU broke loose. It started with two Fulton free throws. After a basket by Ernest Carter, Fulton hit a 3-pointer, a layup and two more 3s that made it 62-50 with 14:45 left. He later added another 3 as the Coyotes built their lead to 79-54 with 10:26 left.
“We started playing with heart and passion,” Monson said. “We started embracing the great crowd we had. I’m proud of my team and how they responded. They couldn’t have done it any better.”
Wesleyan shot 59 percent the second half (20 of 34) and 54.7 percent for the game (35 of 64). The Coyotes also won the rebounding battle by a wide margin, 43-24.
Fulton finished with a team-high 19 points. Ithello Cross added 14 and five rebounds off the bench, and Carter 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Jordan McNelly added nine points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The Coyotes’ reserves outscored Bethany’s reserves 50-29 and KWU outscored the Swedes 50-28 in the paint.
“We can score,” Fulton said. “Sometimes we get a little stagnant on offense, but if we continue to use defense as our main backbone it will turn to offense.”
“They made some shots, but that was partly on our part,” Bethany coach Dan O’Dowd said. “We were too low on the floor and weren’t guarding the 3-point line. We’ve defended the 3-point line pretty well so far this season.
“It probably went back to us having bad possessions on the offensive end and them getting in transition, getting some confidence going and feeling a little bit better about themselves. They really just pushed it from a close game to a 20-point game real quick.”
Larkin led Bethany with 21 points, six rebounds and three steal. Isiah Saenz added 20 points off the bench and Thomas Hood had 15 points as the Swedes shot 50 percent (27 of 54), but also had 21 turnovers in addition to the lopsided rebounding count.
Wesleyan plays Ottawa on Tuesday at Mabee Arena. The women’s game starts at 6 p.m., followed by the men at about 8.