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Bar-Cohen, Owls come back but come up just short

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Kenyon College men’s basketball team took the short trip to Columbus, Ohio, to commence its 2023-24 campaign against the Capital University Comets. The Owls endured a rough first half before turning it around in the second frame, but Kenyon could not complete the comeback as Capital clinched an 80-75 win.

The Owls offense got off to a rough start, making just one of their first 14 shots. Capital struck first and compiled a 9-1 lead, and the deficit swelled to double-digits at 15-5 with 13 minutes and change left in the half. The Comets connected on three of six three-point shots to start the game, but Kenyon helped cool off the home team and held them to a 2-10 clip for the rest of the half.

Unfortunately for the Owls, Capital still converted shots and found the mark on 17 of 33 field goals over the first 20 minutes, a 51.5 percent clip, compared to Kenyon’s 10-32, 31.3 percent shooting. Heading into the second half, the Owls had a 17-point, 43-26 hill to climb. 

After last season’s leading scorer, Gefen Bar-Cohen, was held to two first-half points, the Owls fed their forward early in the second frame as the junior went 3-3 and scored Kenyon’s first six points of the period. Bar-Cohen kept it rolling, getting his second-half total up to 11 points over an 18-11 Kenyon run that helped the Owls cut their deficit to 10. Shots started falling as Kenyon shot 8-10 over the run while holding Capital to 4-11 and 0-3 behind the arc.

Even with Bar-Cohen headed to the bench for a quick blow, the Owls maintained the momentum and continued to come back. Four more points made it eight straight for the Owls, who cut the deficit to six, 54-48, with just under 11 minutes left.

Capital had chances to turn the tide by drawing fouls and getting into the double bonus, but the Comets shot just 3-8 (37.5 percent) from the line over the next seven minutes. Kenyon’s six-point deficit held at 70-64, but a buzzer-beating triple from Capital’s Carter Coombs, who scored a game-high 19 points, put the Comets up nine with two minutes to play.

The Owls took the next six shots, including four at the charity stripe and two second-chance threes, but Kenyon went just 1-4 at the line and missed the mark from downtown. A pair of free throws pushed Capital’s lead back to 10 at 75-65 with 79 seconds remaining.

Kenyon did anything but throw in the towel, however. A pair of Anthony Testa triples bookended a 10-5 Owls run that saw Kenyon pull within five with three seconds to go, but Capital successfully inbounded the ball to clinch the victory and defend its home court.

The Owls made two-thirds of their second-half shots, going 20-30 and outscoring Capital 49-37 in the frame. However, free throw shooting was an issue as Kenyon shot just 8-22 (36.4 percent) overall, but the Comets also struggled from the stripe, going 19-30 (63.3 percent).

Bar-Cohen hit team-highs with 17 points and two blocks on an impressive 7-8 shooting. He left some points on the table by going just 3-8 at the free-throw line, but he contributed to additional output with three assists, tying Nick Nelson for the team lead. Nelson also scored in double-digits, scoring 10 points, and the sophomore guard tied a career-high with five steals.

A team-high three triples helped Testa score 11 points. Despite going 3-10 at the charity stripe, Drew Valentino scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds. First-year center Murathan Kocaman scored eight points and snagged a team-high seven rebounds off the bench. Juan Sergio Matabuena scored eight points in a start, filling his stretch big role with two triples.

The Owls have a tough test ahead on Friday, November 10, when they take on No. 1-ranked Christopher Newport University, the reigning NCAA Division III national champions. The teams will square off at 6 p.m. in Marietta, Ohio, as Kenyon plays in the Marietta Shrine Tournament hosted by Marietta College.

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