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Owls fall after big rebound helps Little Giants escape

GAMBIER, Ohio — The Kenyon College men’s basketball team turned a nine-point first-half deficit into an identical second-half lead, but a late offensive rebound after a missed free throw helped the Wabash College Little Giants (10-4, 3-2 NCAC) hang on for a 71-67 victory. With the loss, Kenyon falls to 7-6 overall, including falling in four games against North Coast Athletic Conference competition.

The Owls were playing catchup early after the Little Giants opened the game with a three-pointer and jumped ahead 7-2. Wabash maintained control despite some Kenyon resistance, and the visitors upped their edge to 21-12 with nine minutes left in the opening half. 

Two possessions later, an Anthony Testa triple ignited a comeback. The Owls completely flipped the script, outscoring Wabash by 15 with a 28-13 run to close out the first frame. After shooting just 4-17 from the floor and 1-6 from downtown to start, Kenyon dialed in and shot a smoldering 12-15 from the floor and 4-5 from distance over the final 8:11 of the half.  

Seven Owls scored over the scorching stretch, with Miles Versa’s eight points leading the charge. Kenyon capped the run and the half with a 6-0 spurt as Alex Boyd, Versa, and David Mazon III converted three consecutive driving layups. Mazon III’s bucket came after the junior turned defense into offense, securing a steal on one end of the court before going coast-to-coast and scoring with one second left in the half.

Mazon III finished with a team-high 18 points, matching a career-high and doing so very efficiently. The forward shot 6-8 overall, made both of his three-pointers, and was 4-5 from the free-throw line. It was the second straight game with a season-high for the junior after scoring 17 his last time out, and it marked the sixth straight game with double-figure scoring totals for Kenyon’s third-leading scorer. 

Kenyon held their lead for the first five and a half minutes of the second period, but four consecutive free throws put Wabash ahead 46-44 at the 13:36 mark. Nick Nelson made a tough layup to snatch the lead right back, sparking a 13-2 stretch that saw the Owls shoot 5-6 from the floor and 2-3 from deep.

Mazon III scored the final six points of the run, knocking down a trifecta and converting an and-one layup. The push gave Kenyon a nine-point advantage, 57-48, matching Wabash’s largest lead from the first half.

However, the Little Giants responded with a 14-4 run to take a one-point lead, turning the game into a nail-biter down the stretch. The squads went back and forth over the next couple of minutes, with the visitors holding a 68-67 edge at the 47-second mark after a Versa layup.

Kenyon had a chance at the go-ahead shot late after two missed Wabash freebies, but Versa’s jumper with eight seconds left came up short. The Owls caught one more break after Ahmoni Jones, who was shooting better than 90% from the free-throw line coming into the game, missed his second shot, but Wabash’s Styles McCorkle tipped out an offensive rebound to seal the game, with the Little Giants going on to win 71-67.

This was the first of 13 straight NCAC contests to close the season for Kenyon. The Owls will be looking for their first conference win when they head to Denison University (6-6, 2-2 NCAC) on Saturday, Jan. 7. The road bout is scheduled to tip off at 3 p.m. in Granville, Ohio.

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