Section: Basketball

Men’s basketball off to scorching start, now 5-1

During Thanksgiving break, the Kenyon men’s basketball team split a pair of road games before winning a home game on Wednesday. After suffering its first defeat of the season at the hands of the Wilmington College Quakers, Kenyon was able to rebound with a high-scoring 101-95 win over Grinnell College (Iowa). After the 58-56 win against Muskingum University, the team’s record stands at 5-1.

On Nov. 19, the Owls faced off against the Quakers. The game was a tightly contested affair, as the two teams traded the lead to open the first half before Wilmington made it 22-15. Though Kenyon tied things up at 26 after an 11-4 run, the Quakers regained the lead and had a 39-35 advantage heading into the break. In the second half, Wilmington grew its lead to double digits, before Kenyon’s 17-6 run gave the Owls their first lead since the game’s opening minutes. After the teams found themselves tied at 69 with just over four minutes to play, the Quakers took over, riding a 13-5 run to victory. 

Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25, who had 14 points in the game, emphasized the importance of the team not allowing its first loss to become overwhelming. “We’ve been on losing streaks in the past, so we understand the importance of not letting one loss affect how we play moving forward,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “Coach [Dan] Priest always reminds us to prepare for each game as if we have a 0-0 record.”

Looking to rebound from the loss, Kenyon headed west to face off against Grinnell two days later. For Bar-Cohen, a key to the team’s success against the Pioneers was withstanding their frenetic offensive attack. “Their goal is to speed you up, make you uncomfortable and make you turn the ball over,” he said. “We knew that in order to win, we needed to keep our composure, stay disciplined and stick to our game plan.” 

Throughout the game, the Owls did just that. In the first half, the two teams traded points often. Though Kenyon twice trailed by seven points, it was able to gain momentum in the closing minutes of the half. A trio of triples from Nick Lewis ’23, Kamal Aubakirov ’23 and Alex Boyd ’23 helped to put the Owls ahead 49-43 at halftime. The Pioneers did not go away quietly, as strong 3-point shooting helped them tie the game at 58 just under five minutes into the second half. As in the first half, the two teams traded the lead until Kenyon took it at the very end, when Bar-Cohen made a pair of free-throws with just over two minutes to play. Though Grinnell fought until the end, Kenyon came away with the 101-95 victory, its highest-scoring game since 2005. Bar-Cohen highlighted the team’s ability to play together as a key reason for their victory. “The game against Grinnell was one of our best. We executed on offense and defense, played hard and played together,” he said. “When we play like that, we’re hard to beat.”

Hoping to ride the momentum of their shootout victory, the Owls faced Muskingum on Wednesday. The Owls stumbled out of the gate, managing to score only four points in the opening 10 minutes of play. After trailing early, Kenyon’s 11-4 run cut the deficit to just one point. The rest of the half was close, and the Muskies took a 26-24 lead into halftime. Bar-Cohen and Lewis opened the second half with a pair of layups to give the Owls the lead, and, from there, the two teams traded baskets. With just over two minutes left to play, David Mazon III ’25 rebounded a missed free throw, and Aubakirov’s 3-pointer gave Kenyon a 57-56 lead. As the seconds ticked away, neither team could score, until Nick Nelson ’26 made one of two free-throws with 12 seconds on the clock. Though the Muskies put up a last-second 3-point shot, it wouldn’t go, and the Owls won 58-56.

Kenyon will open NCAC play on Saturday, when they will host Ohio Wesleyan University. After a disappointing 2021-22 season in which the team went 3-22, Bar-Cohen believes that the team has taken steps forward and has what it takes to succeed. “Everybody put in a lot of work in the off-season and so far this year, we’ve all felt a definitive shift in intensity and focus,” he said. “Overall, we’re a lot more locked in during practices and we play hungry during games. We’re not going to have a repeat of last year.”


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