Like their loss to Southwestern three days earlier, the Tabor men’s 85-71 win over McPherson College in the Bluejays’ KCAC home opener was a tale of two very different halves.
The good news: Tabor battled well enough in the second half to hold off a Bulldog rally and claim its first conference win against one loss. McPherson dropped to 0-2 in KCAC and 1-5 overall.
Tabor began the game with a 10-2 run over the first 3:48, then pushed the margin to 19-6 by the 13:06 mark.
After the Bulldogs narrowed the lead to 24-14, Tabor surged again near the end of the half for a 13-2 run over the final 4:30—including back-to-back dunks by newcomer Isaiah Wilson—to take a 52-32 lead into the break.
Unfortunately, the strong team play that characterized most of Tabor’s first half all but evaporated for much of the second half, enabling the Bulldogs to close the gap to 67-56 with 8:46 left in the contest.
When Tabor’s Alex Arnold hit a two-pointer coming off the bench at the 8:31 mark, Tabor rediscovered its first-half magic and the result was an 11-2 run over the next 4:11, resulting in a 79-60 lead.
McPherson responded with a 9-0 run over the next 2:20 to pull within 79-69 with 1:08 to play.
With time winding down, McPherson began fouling with the hope of rebounding missed free throws, but Tabor made six of 10 charities down the stretch to secure the win.
“I thought the first half went great, I thought the second half was terrible,” coach Micah Ratzlaff said about his team afterward. “We had guys wide open, and they were even standing right next them, but they wouldn’t pass the ball. It’s frustrating.”
Ratzlaff praised the play of Alan Urritia, Jordan Horstick and newcomer Isaiah Wilson.
“I thought Alan played really well even though he only shot four times,” he said.
“Since putting Jordan Horstick in the starting lineup (the previous game), he’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” Ratzlaff said. “His effort’s good, he’s playing hard. He’s kind of a junkyard dog out there, but I thought he did a great job.
“Now all we have to do is find six or seven guys who want to go hard, but that may not happen.”
Wilson, a 6-foot-6 sophomore from St. Louis, made his season debut at Southwestern.
“I thought Isaiah did some good things,” Ratzlaff said. “He had a couple of blocks, a couple of rebounds and a couple of dunks. He can actually shoot the ball, but his shot’s not falling right now.”
Julian Winton led Tabor with 16 points, Jon Manjon Beristain added 14 and Kyle Baker 11. As a team, Tabor shot nearly 51 percent from the floor (33-65) while
McPherson launched 79 shots and made only 29 for 39 percent. Aaron Buchura led the Bulldogs with 18 points.
Southwestern—Tabor took its No. 16 NAIA ranking to Winfield Nov. 15 to open KCAC play against 13th ranked Moundbuilders, and came away five points short of a mild upset, 81-76.
Southwestern was the preseason favorite to win the men’s title, with Tabor picked for second. The Builders came in to Wednesday’s game with a 6-0 record and Tabor at 1-3.
The two teams traded good and bad halves. Tabor suffered through a difficult first half to trail the home team by 10 points, 45-35, at intermission.
The Bluejay shot 1-12 behind the arc, while Southwestern shot 44 percent (7-16), and Tabor managed only three assists on their 12 baskets.
The Bluejays turned the table in the second half, outscoring the Builders by 10 points. Before Tabor’s rally, the home led by as many as 13 points barely a minute into the second half.
Tabor then launched a 13-2 run to get back into the game. Midway through the half, Tabor would get as close as three or four, only to fall behind by seven or eight.
Jordan Horstick ignited the final push with a pair of free throws. Tabor’s 9-2 run tied the game at 73 with 2:21 to go, but Southwestern hit eight of 10 free throws down the stretch to keep Tabor at bay.
Julian Winton led Tabor with 17 with DeShun Patterson adding 12, Jordan Horstick 11 and Jon Manjon Beristain 10. As a team the Bluejays shot 44 percent from the floor while Southwestern made just under 50 percent of their shots.
COMING—The Bluejays were scheduled for a game Tuesday at York College (1-0 KCAC, 4-2 overall). The Bluejays will take a brief break before hosting Bethel College Nov. 29 with an 8 p.m. start.