SALINA — The Bethany College men's basketball team was on the right side of a thriller Saturday night over rival Kansas Wesleyan. After losing in the team's first contest, the Swedes rebounded to take the sequel 79-71 over the Coyotes.
The Coyotes started out the game on fire. After the Swedes answered the first few KWU baskets right away, the Coyotes went on a run and led the Swedes 21-9 eight minutes into the game. Over the next seven minutes the Swedes went on an 18-0 run to take the lead for the first time in the contest. The Coyotes were then able to inch their way back on the heels of the Swedes before a last-second 3-point shot gave KWU a one-point lead going into the break.
In the first five minutes of the second half, the Swedes outscored the Coyotes 16-4. With a comfortable lead, the Swedes settled in to play their game. While the Coyotes worked hard to get back into the game, the closest they would get would be six points. Every time it looked like the door was opening for KWU the Swedes were there to slam it shut with a resilient defense and a command over their offense.
Three Swedes hit double-digit points and all three tied as Bethany’s leading scorer. Cody Harris, Tyler Larkin and Ian Merzwinski all put up 16 points. Larkin went 8 for 15 from the field while Merzwinski went 7 for 11. Half of Harris' points came from the line where he was a perfect 8 for 8.
Harris and Larkin also led the team with six boards apiece. Merzwinski and Elvis Okafor were not far behind, each pulling down five rebounds. Larkin was also the team's leader with four steals, while Okafor picked up three steals of his own tonight.
As a team, the Swedes shot 54.4 percent in the field tonight and 38.5 percent from long range. Bethany out rebounded KWU 35-31 and had 15 turnovers compared to KWU's 18.
The Swedes return home to The Hahn for their next contest on Thursday. The team will take on the Eagles of Oklahoma Wesleyan at 8 p.m. following the women's game.