The Kenyon men’s basketball team opened the 2023-24 season with a road loss to Capital University on Wednesday. The season opener was a tale of two halves, as a difficult opening frame doomed the Owls despite strong second-half shooting.
After a promising start, Kenyon ended the 2022-23 season 7-18 (0-16 NCAC), leading to the departure of longtime head coach Dan Priest and the hiring of Head Coach Steve Phillips and Assistant Coach Justin Sosinsky. The Owls have high expectations for the new season: “We are such a talented team down the roster,” Drew Valentino ’24, who appeared in all 25 games in 2022-23, wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We come in every day with the mindset of growth, and the potential we have as a team is overwhelming.”
Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25, who last season led the team in scoring with 15.1 points per game and earned All-NCAC Third Team honors, believes that the changes for Kenyon will improve the program. “We just added two great coaches and a talented class of freshmen to an already skilled, established base of returning players,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “With the amount of talent and chemistry on this team, I expect to be one of the top teams in our conference.”
With a large core of upperclassmen, Miles Versa ’25, who was second on the team in scoring with 11 points per game, believes that Kenyon can also use its experience to its advantage. “We have all been around the league for two years now so we know the effort it takes to compete each night,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian.
The Owls opened their season with a game in Columbus, Ohio, against the Comets. Capital got off to a hot start, going on a 9-1 run to open the game. Though the Owls tried to shrink the deficit throughout the first half, the Comets consistently responded. At the end of 20 minutes, Kenyon trailed 43-26. The second half was a back-and-forth affair, as neither team could gain much ground. In the latter part of the frame, the Owls decreased the Comets’ lead to single digits, but Kenyon was unable to overcome the first-half deficit and fell 80-75. Fouls proved costly for the Owls, as they sent the Comets to the charity stripe 30 times. Bar-Cohen led the team with 17 points on 7-8 shooting from the field and 3-8 shooting from the free-throw line, while Murathan Kocaman ’27 paced Kenyon with seven rebounds.
The Owls will head to Marietta, Ohio, on Friday for the Marietta Tournament. Kenyon will look to bounce back against No. 1 Christopher Newport University (Va.), the defending Division III national champions, and Washington and Jefferson College (Pa.). Valentino believes that consistency will help the Owls soar. “We cannot get too high or too low as a team,” he said. “I expect this team to continually grow and to do some pretty great things this year.” Bar-Cohen sees complete commitment to playing the right way as key to Kenyon’s success. “If we make the right reads within our offense and trust our defensive concepts and strategies, we’re going to win a lot of games,” he said. “We’ll also have a lot of fun doing it.”