Men’s basketball halts Hillcats late run to secure victory


Jesse Bruner

Washburn forward Jeremy Harrell shoots the ball Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021, at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Harrell knocked down three three-pointers in the game.

Coming off a road win over Newman, Washburn men’s basketball looked to build on its performance and move over .500 on the season. They faced off against 6-3 Rogers State Dec. 18. with both teams looking to climb out of early season conference holes.

Defense was key for the Ichabods early on as they held the Hillcats to just four points in the first six and a half minutes to build a nine-point lead. Washburn’s offense was not clicking on all cylinders, but an inside-out attack led by junior guard Jalen Lewis who had seven early points kept the lead in double figures through the middle stages of the half.

“We are getting there and there are still some things that are just not quite right,” said head coach Brett Ballard. “I don’t think we have played anywhere close to our ceiling yet.”

After the 7:40 mark the Ichabods offense went on a scoring drought that extended more than three minutes, allowing Rogers State to pull within five points.

Senior forward Jeremy Harrell helped keep the stagnant offense afloat in the final five minutes, scoring eight points including knocking down his second three-pointer of the half as he led all scorers with 13 first-half points.

Turnovers and fouls for Washburn offset the offensive production, making it a 32-27 game at the break.

The lead did not hold long as Hillcats guard Devin Pullum scored six points in the first minute of the second half to take a 33-32 lead.

“We kind of wanted them to take threes, to their credit they ran good stuff and got good looks … that was kind of the game plan coming in, they weren’t on paper a great shooting team,” Ballard said.

Lewis responded, scoring the next eight of the next ten points for the Ichabods to pull back ahead 41-40. A pull up three-pointer by Lewis at the 13:52 mark made it a six-point game and forced a timeout.

“(I was just) staying poised and staying confident, just knowing that we needed to get this win. I was just doing what I needed to do and teammates were putting me in places that I needed to get shots,” Lewis said.

The wings of Washburn led the next scoring charge to make it a nine-point game at the nine-minute mark. Freshman guard Levi Braun knocked down a triple while sophomore guard Connor Deffebaugh scored five including an and-one.

Foul trouble struck the Ichabods with both Lewis and Deffebaugh picking up their fourth fouls, allowing Rogers State to pull within one point. Senior guard Tyler Geiman responded with the next four points for Washburn in his home debut.

“I think if we are both in attack mode the whole game, it just makes us so much harder to guard,” Lewis said on the return of his all-conference backcourt mate.

The Hillcats would not go away, a triple by Pullum tied the game at 64 with 2:43 left. Lewis responded right back with a three of his own that was matched on the other end to tie it up with under two minutes left, forcing a timeout from the Ichabods.

The threes continued out of the break with Harrell knocking down one from the corner to retake the lead. Following a basket by Rogers State and an empty possession from Washburn, Harrell made the key play on the defensive end as well, drawing a charge with 15 seconds remaining.

“On the last two trips down the court I kind of got beat and fouled him two times so what I did was I planned to take a charge,” Harrell said. “I know that you got to take the first bump cause that is the NCAA rule, but on the second bump you can take the charge, so that is what I did.”

A missed free throw from Lewis left the door open, but freshman guard Michael Keegan was able to play sound defense on the other end, stopping a layup attempt and securing a rebound to close out the 70-69 victory.

The win moved the Ichabods to 6-5 on the year and 3-2 in conference play.

Lewis led Washburn with 22 points while Harrell had 20 as both knocked down three triples. Geiman added nine points and a team-high six assists and eight rebounds.

“We got to get to this break. I mean our guys with everything that has happened mentally and physically we need to get to Tuesday, so we got to lock in here for 48 more hours,” Ballard said.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Ichabods as they face Northeastern State in Lee Arena Dec. 20.

Edited by Alyssa Storm and Ellie Walker