The McPherson College men's basketball team bounced back from a tough loss on Tuesday on the road against Friends University with an 83-76 win at home over the defending KCAC tournament champion Southwestern College Moundbuilders.
The Bulldogs led for 39 of the 40 minutes played against a Moundbuilder team that seems to still be searching for their identity after losing Cameron Hunt, the programs' all-time leading scorer, and the player of the year in the NAIA a season ago, to graduation. They came into the game winless in the KCAC at 0-3, and left the Sport Center still looking for that first win.
The Bulldogs played great on both ends of the floor, but especially on defense. Offensively they shot 36 percent from the floor, making good on 26 of their 71 attempts. Where they were excellent was on the offensive glass, where they grabbed 21 rebounds. This is even more impressive considering the Moundbuilders started three players in the front court that are 6-foot-7, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9. Defensively, they held the Moundbuilders, who are tops in the KCAC in scoring, to 22 points below their season average.
The Bulldogs opened the game on an 8-0 run and led by as many as 10 points in the half before the Moundbuilders made a late run and closed the gap to six at the break. In the second half, the Bulldogs pushed the lead back out to double digits, leading by 11, 45-34 with 14:38 left in the game. The lead hovered around ten points until the 11:29 mark when the Moundbuilders went on an 11-2 run to cut the Bulldog lead to one, 57-56.
Delvon Hightower split a pair of free throws to put the Bulldogs back up by two, but a three pointer by the Moundbuilders on their next possession gave them their first lead of the game. It was short lived as the Bulldogs tied the game on a free throw by Lual Magot, and then retook the lead on a basket by Fred Watts. The Moundbuilders got it back to within one at 64-63 at the 4:53 mark, but that was as close as they would get. The Bulldogs outscored the Moundbuilders 19-16 down the stretch to escape with a seven point win.
The Bulldogs were led by another double-double from Watts, who led all scorers with 24 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Also in double figures were Magot, who had 15 points, including two big dunks that ignited the fans in the Sport Center, and Dorian Paige, who chipped in 12 points on his birthday. Grant Munsen had his best game of the year offensively. He finished the night with eight points, including a huge three pointer, when Southwestern was making a run in the second half.
"This was a great win for our group after a close loss at Friends on Wednesday", said Bulldogs' first-year head coach TJ Eskildsen said. "I was proud that we showed toughness throughout the game. We had multiple guys step up and make 'winning' plays. We will enjoy this win tonight and turn our attention to a very talented York team."
With the win, the Bulldogs move to 5-3 overall, and even their record in the KCAC to 2-2. They will go on the road next Tuesday to take on the York College Panthers. The Bulldogs and Panthers will tipoff at 8 p.m. following the women's game at 6 p.m.