Defense powers men’s basketball to 19th win

After a near record setting night shooting the ball, the Washburn men’s basketball team was right back on the court Saturday, Feb. 16 to battle Central Oklahoma.

Half number one was played nip and tuck with neither team leading by more than four. Holding a three point halftime lead, Washburn turned up the intensity and ran away with the second half and ultimately the game to win 88-69.

Washburn nearly tied a school record with 17 3-pointers against Northeastern State and it looked like they may continue the hot shooting when senior guard Javion Blake made a three to begin the game.

It wasn’t quite the near record, but the 3-pointer played a big factor in this game.

Washburn led early at 7-3, but a quick 6-0 run by the Bronchos gave them the 9-7 advantage. Both teams traded baskets and UCO led 11-10 headed into the under 15 minute media timeout.

Neither team could gain any significant separation with senior guard Devyn Wilson contributing to the cause with a 3-pointer.

Shooting from distance is something Washburn has done well all year and Devyn Wilson embraces the skill.

“We give each other confidence to shoot the ball,” said Wilson. “So, if you don’t shoot the ball when you’re open, you’re going to hear it from your teammates and the coaching staff, so we do a great job of instilling confidence in each other to shoot the ball.”

Blake paced the Washburn offense throughout the first half piling up 16 points on 6 of 11 shooting capped by a layup with four seconds remaining after a confused Broncho defense gave him an open lane to the basket.

The layup gave the Ichabods a 36-33 lead at the half.

Central Oklahoma tied the game to start the second half, but once senior forward David Salach scored and gave Washburn a 38-36 lead, the Ichabods would never trail again.

The shooting from Washburn was hot to start the second half as they hit their first six shots and did not miss a shot until nearly five minutes into the half.

The defense finally dug their heels in and made a stand that would ultimately be the difference in the game. Over the next four minutes, Washburn pieced together a 14-0 run which would stretch the lead to 19 at 62-43.

During the run, Blake appeared to injure his right leg and was forced to leave the game. With the big lead, the coaching staff elected to sit Blake the rest of the game.

Coupled with freshman forward Sevon Witt exiting with an injury earlier in the game, the Ichabods were forced to finish the game without two of its best players.

Sophomore guard Tyler Geiman recognized that although Witt and Blake were injured, it may have been sort of a blessing in disguise for his teammates.

“Other guys got more experience, so I think that obviously helps,” said Geiman. “And I think that just shows how much depth that we have as a team that anyone is ready to play.”

The offense continued to keep their feet on the pedal and the lead remained around 20 for the remainder of the game.

Coach Brett Ballard was able to empty his bench a little late in the half and get some of the younger players some action.

The young players helped put the game on cruise control and Washburn was able to finish out an 88-69 win.

Defense was again key in the win and was ultimately the difference maker.

“We started locking in on the defensive end,” said Geiman. “That was one of our main focuses in the second half and once our defense gets going that really helps our offense.”

The win improves the Ichabods to 19-5 overall and 12-3 in the MIAA. With the regular season winding down, Washburn will play Lindenwood at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21 in St. Charles, Missouri.