Section: Basketball

Men’s basketball looks to NCAC play after trio of losses

Men’s basketball looks to NCAC play after trio of losses

Fuerst had a career high in points against the Cardinals. | COURTESY OF GRAHAM STOKES

The Kenyon men’s basketball team dropped three non-conference games and is still looking for its first win of the season. After a pair of Thanksgiving break losses to Ohio Northern University and Otterbein University and a loss on Wednesday to Muskingum University, the Owls’ record stands at 0-7.

On Nov. 18, Kenyon hit the road to face off against Ohio Northern. The first half was a back-and-forth affair. Nearly every time the Owls took the lead, the Polar Bears answered back to tie. With 12 minutes to play in the frame, Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25 executed a three-point play to give Kenyon a 19-14 lead, the largest margin for either team in the first half. Ohio Northern refused to give in and quickly tied the game at 20-all, and the two teams continued to trade baskets. Down the stretch, the Polar Bears began to take over, going on a 7-0 run to hold a 28-24 advantage with just over five minutes before halftime. The Owls refused to go away quietly and with a minute remaining in the half, a triple from Peter Haas ’25 and a layup from Bar-Cohen gave Kenyon a three-point lead. Unfortunately, a last second 3-pointer from Ohio Northern sent the teams to the locker room tied at 37.

The Owls returned from the break and quickly flexed their offensive muscles, scoring the first 11 points of the half to lead 48-37, forcing the Polar Bears to call a timeout. Ohio Northern began to cut away at Kenyon’s lead, but the Owls still held a comfortable 61-53 lead halfway through the final frame. However, a 13-4 run from the Polar Bears gave Ohio Northern its first lead of the second half. Though Kenyon fought down the stretch, Ohio Northern held on and came away with the 88-83 win. Bar-Cohen led the way with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Nicholas Nelson ’26 and Connor Moss ’25 both hit double digits, scoring 16 and 14 points, respectively.

Dylan Fuerst ’24, who played 21 minutes against the Polar Bears, highlighted the importance of maintaining focus on every play. “We did a great job of getting into our offense, making quick decisions and most importantly, moving on to the next play after getting scored on or turning the ball over,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “I think the main takeaway is that we need to stay focused on the play at hand and not the game as a whole.” 

Back in Tomsich Arena for the first time in nearly two weeks, Kenyon took a 7-2 lead four minutes into its contest with Otterbein. The visiting Cardinals answered back in a hurry with a 9-0 run over the next two minutes to lead 11-7. A pair of and-ones from Bar-Cohen gave the Owls a 13-11 advantage, but that would be Kenyon’s final lead of the night as Otterbein gained control of the game’s momentum. The Cardinals’ 10-0 run put the Owls on the wrong side of a 21-13 lead with eight minutes left in the first half. Kenyon and Otterbein traded baskets in the final minutes of the opening period, but the Cardinals held a 36-26 lead after 20. 

Unfortunately, Kenyon’s struggles continued in the second half, as Otterbein led by 22 points nearly halfway through the period. Both teams saw their field goal percentages improve markedly in the second half, as the Owls and Cardinals scored a combined 89 points in the latter 20 minutes. Despite scoring at a higher offensive clip, Kenyon never recovered from the double-digit deficit and fell by a final score of 84-67.

Bar-Cohen again led the Owls, putting up 20 points and snagging six rebounds. Nelson scored 10 points, but no other player for Kenyon broke double digits. Frequent trips to the charity stripe defined much of the game, as the Owls hit 15 of their 25 free throws and the Cardinals went 17-29.

Fuerst, who scored a career-best nine points against Otterbein, praised Kenyon for its defense and emphasized the need for consistency, despite the loss: “We were very tuned in on the [defensive] end for a majority of the game. If we commit to playing that type of disciplined defense and then securing the rebound for the full 40 minutes, we’ll be a very tough team to score on.” 

Ahead of Wednesday’s game against Muskingum, Fuerst emphasized the importance of limiting offensive momentum for the Owls’ opponents. “We need to play confident and disciplined on both ends of the court from the tip to the buzzer,” he said. “If we start to overthink and dwell on bad plays, we could find ourselves on the wrong side of a run and having to crawl back from a deficit, as we have in previous games.”

Unfortunately for Kenyon, the Owls’ problems with allowing scoring runs persisted. After a 3-pointer from Juan Sergio Matabuena ’25 three minutes into the game tied the score at 5-5, the Fighting Muskies went on a 7-2 run to double up the Owls. Throughout the remainder of the first half, the two teams traded buckets, but Muskingum held a 36-29 lead at the break. The Fighting Muskies held onto their lead throughout the rest of the game and led by double digits for the game’s final six minutes, as the Owls dropped the game 84-70. Sergio Matabuena led Kenyon with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the field, in addition to a team-leading seven rebounds. Turnovers proved costly for the Owls, as Kenyon gave the ball back to Muskingum 16 times.    

The Owls will return home for their first conference game of the season on Saturday, as Kenyon will take on DePauw University. After failing to win an NCAC game last season, Fuerst believes that the Owls have what it takes to be competitive in a tough conference. “We are going into NCAC play with confidence, despite the losses to out-of-conference teams. We’ve played some tough opponents, but we’re seeing fast improvement,” he said. “We don’t think any team is unbeatable and are going into every game with the confidence that if we play hard and disciplined basketball for 40 minutes, we will come out with the win.”

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