The Kenyon men’s basketball team opened conference play with a lopsided loss to Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) and a heartbreaker against Hiram College. With their first NCAC games in the books, the Owls’ record stands at 5-3 (0-2 NCAC).
On Saturday, Kenyon and OWU faced off in Tomsich Arena. After keeping things close through the game’s opening minutes, the Owls jumped ahead to a 16-8 lead with just over eight minutes to play in the first half. Unfortunately for Kenyon, OWU took the lead with a minute to play. After a missed Owls 3-pointer to close the half, the Battling Bishops led 27-22. Though Kenyon kept the latter 20 minutes competitive at first, OWU pulled away as time elapsed. Strong second-half shooting from the charity stripe, where the Battling Bishops went 18-for-19 (94.7%), propelled OWU to a 75-61 win and handed Kenyon its first home loss of the season.
For Kamal Aubakirov ’23, who led the team in 3-point percentage and notched 12 points in the game, the team’s defensive performance was a tale of two halves. “I think our defense was really solid in the first half. But once we had a few defensive breakdowns in the second half, a team like OWU would most definitely take advantage of it,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “And they did, getting that 10-point lead that they were able to sustain.”
The Owls continued conference play when they traveled to Hiram, Ohio to face the Terriers on Wednesday. Throughout the opening minutes of the first half, the two teams traded baskets. With Kenyon up 8-7, Hiram took over, going on a 24-9 run. Timely shooting from Nick Lewis ’23 and Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25 helped to shrink the deficit, but the Owls still trailed 34-25 after 20 minutes of play. Looking to pull off the comeback, Kenyon came out of the gate hot, riding a 13-3 run to its first lead of the game. Strong shooting inside the arc helped the Owls grow their lead to as many as eight points, but the Terriers did not go away quietly on their home court. After tying the game at 58 on a layup with eight and a half minutes to play, Hiram took the lead with a free throw and never looked back, dealing Kenyon its second conference loss of the season by a score of 82-77.
Kenyon will return to its home court to play DePauw University on Saturday. As the season continues and conference play hits a fever pitch in the new year, Aubakirov believes that the team’s focus should be on their own growth. “I think our biggest focus should be on us — making sure we make progress every practice and game and take care of each other,” he said. “We have a really good mix of older and younger guys and just talent this year, and it’s up to us to make sure we keep improving defensively and offensively.”