Section: Basketball

Men’s basketball falls in first round of NCAC Tournament

Men’s basketball falls in first round of NCAC Tournament

In his final collegiate game, Testa had a career high 25 points against Wabash. | SEJIN KIM/SID/NCAA

The Kenyon men’s basketball team wrapped up its 2023-24 season with a loss to Wabash College in the first round of the NCAC Tournament, after falling to the Wittenberg University Tigers in the regular season finale. The Owls ended the campaign with a 5-21 (3-13 NCAC) record.

On Saturday, Kenyon traveled to Springfield, Ohio, to finish off its season series with Wittenberg. The Owls got early contributions from two of their seniors, as Anthony Testa ’24 connected on a pair of 3-pointers and Dylan Fuerst ’24 made a layup to give Kenyon an 8-5 lead under three minutes into the contest. After Connor Moss ’25 tied the game at 11-all a few minutes later, the Tigers began to take over. Wittenberg scored the game’s next 10 points, all of which came from within the arc. Though the teams traded blows in the final nine minutes of the opening frame, the Tigers headed into halftime with a 32-20 lead.

After being held without a point in the first 20 minutes, Gefen Bar-Cohen ’25 opened the second half with a layup to cut Kenyon’s deficit to 10 points. Though the Owls stayed close throughout the opening minutes of the second frame, relying on strong work in the paint and from downtown, the Tigers began to pull away as the game wound down. Wittenberg came away with the 75-55 win and a sweep of the season series with Kenyon, the Tigers’ 14th consecutive win in the matchup. In limited minutes due to foul trouble, Bar-Cohen led the team with 11 points. Justin Gagnon ’27 put up a strong performance from beyond the arc, scoring his nine points on a trio of triples.

In their first postseason berth since 2017, the Owls entered the NCAC tournament as the No. 8 seed, looking to upset the top-seeded Little Giants. Though Wabash won both of the teams’ regular season matchups, Kenyon started Tuesday’s game strong. Bar-Cohen and Murathan Kocaman ’27 scored the game’s first five points, and the Owls held a slim two-point advantage after three minutes of play. The lead was short-lived, as the Little Giants hit a go-ahead 3-pointer and never looked back. Wabash shot 62.5% from the field and 66.67% from 3-point range in the first half. The Little Giants capped off their first-half performance with a last-second triple to take a 55-29 lead into the break.

The Owls faced an uphill battle, as the Little Giants grew their lead to as many as 32 points throughout the second half. Though Kenyon was unable to complete the upset against Wabash, the Owls refused to go down without a fight. Testa, in the final game of his collegiate career, led the way for the visitors. After knocking down a pair of 3-pointers to end the first half, the senior from North Carolina connected on his first four shots from downtown in the second frame. The Little Giants’ offense cooled off in the second half, as Wabash shot 41.94% from the field and made just one 3-pointer. Kenyon capitalized on the diminished offense to outscore the home team 36-29 in the second half, but Wabash won the game 84-65 and earned the right to host the remainder of the NCAC tournament. Testa led both teams in scoring with a career-high 25 points, including 8-of-13 shooting from 3-point range. Bar-Cohen also hit double digits with 10 points, and Valentino and Charlie Heywood ’27 paced the team with six rebounds.

After struggling with a difficult non-conference schedule, the Owls showed improvement in conference play in their first season under Head Coach Steve Phillips and Assistant Coach Justin Sosinsky. Kenyon won just one conference game over the past two seasons, and the Owls’ three NCAC wins this season matched their highest win total since 2017-18. Kenyon is set to return 16 players, including leading scorers Bar-Cohen (13.3 points per game) and Moss (8.7 points per game) for their senior seasons.

Gagnon, who appeared in 19 games in his first season with the Owls, emphasized the importance of tuning out the outside noise. “Kenyon has been used to losing for a while now, and nobody expected us to win anything this past season… Although it may not seem like much, winning three conference games is a step forward for Kenyon men’s basketball,” he wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We ignored the critics and won more conference games than in [the last few years]. … We definitely took a step in the right direction this year.” Still, Gagnon and the rest of the team believe that the team can continue to improve: “Our goal next year is to just keep moving forward.”

Sports assistant Henry Brandt ’26 is a member of the men’s basketball team.

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