Section: Basketball

Men’s basketball still searching for first conference victory

Men’s basketball still searching for first conference victory

David Mazon III ’25 | SEJIN KIM/SID/NCAA

Over winter break, the Kenyon men’s basketball team faced a busy schedule of games, including a trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., and a slew of conference games. Though the Owls found some success against non-conference opponents, they were winless against NCAC foes. Their record stands at 7-10 (0-8).

After a heartbreaking last-second layup sealed DePauw University’s 69-67 win on Dec. 10, Kenyon got back in the win column against Alma College (Mich.) a week later. Poor first-half shooting had the Owls on the wrong side of a 39-21 lead, but they came out of the break hot, scoring 10 unanswered points. A free throw from Anthony Testa ’24 gave the Owls a 64-63 lead with just over five minutes to play. In the waning minutes of the game, the two teams traded the lead. With just five seconds left on the clock, Miles Versa ’25 put the game-winning layup home, securing the 74-72 road win.

As temperatures in Gambier grew colder, the Owls headed south to the Sunshine State to take part in the Daytona Beach Shootout. For Florida-born David Mazon III ’25, the chance to play in his home state was an exciting one. “One of my favorite things about basketball is traveling to new places and the bonds you deepen with your team while traveling,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “It was nice for my family to come see me play in person for once.”

On Dec. 20, Kenyon faced off against Stevenson University (Md.). Despite clutch 3-point shooting from Sam Walch ’23 and Versa to help the Owls mount a first-half comeback, the Mustangs took the lead with seven minutes to play in the second half and never looked back on their way to a 72-67 victory.     

Looking to head home with a split, Kenyon returned to play a day later against Marymount University (Va.). The Owls quickly jumped out to an early lead, capitalizing on 46.4% field goal shooting to take a 39-24 lead into halftime. However,  the Saints tied the game at 74 with under a minute and a half to play. Nick Nelson ’26 gave Kenyon the advantage with a free throw before making a layup to seal the 77-74 win. 

For Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25, who led the Owls with 24 points against the Saints, the trip to Florida represented some of the team’s best basketball, but he emphasized that the team knew not to lose focus of the season’s larger goals. “It felt good to play well in Florida, but immediately after the trip, we all shifted our focus to our upcoming conference games,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.

As the Owls returned to their roost, their struggle with slow starts followed them. In the first half of its Jan. 4 game against Wabash, Kenyon trailed by as many as nine points, before strong shooting helped to give the team a 40-34 lead at halftime. However, the Owls were unable to close out the game, losing in the waning minutes 71-67. Kenyon was unable to rebound from the loss in their next two games against conference foes Denison University and the College of Wooster, losing 82-61 on Jan. 7 and 81-67 on Jan. 9. 

On Saturday, Kenyon was in good position to get its first NCAC win against Wittenberg University, taking a 37-27 lead into halftime. However, the Tigers took advantage of a run of Kenyon mistakes to regain the lead. The game was a back-and-forth affair, and at the end of 40 minutes the score was tied at 57. Wittenberg took the lead 17 seconds into overtime and never relinquished it, winning 75-72.

The Owls returned to Tomsich Arena on Wednesday to play the Oberlin College Yeomen, with both teams looking to win their first conference game. Though Kenyon scored the game’s first four points, Oberlin took over for the rest of the first half. The Owls pulled close throughout the second half, but Testa’s buzzer-beating three was not enough, and Kenyon fell 58-57.

Both Bar-Cohen and Mazon agree that the Owls are capable of being competitive in conference but acknowledge that it will take more to win games. “We play each team in our conference twice a year, so if we can scout and know how they play, their go-to moves and tendencies; we will have an upper had if we can stop those things,” Mazon said. “We want to be more than just competitive; we want to win,” Bar-Cohen said.

The Owls will return to play on Saturday, when they travel to face conference-leading Ohio Wesleyan University. With around a month left in the regular season and only conference opponents left on the schedule, Mazon highlighted finishing the season strong as a main goal for the team. “We started out really strong this season and are currently right now going through a drought. I want us to at least be .500 by the end of the season and to make it to the playoffs,” he said.

Bar-Cohen’s goals can be summed up in just one word: “Win.”

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