CEDAR RAPIDS — The first-half hole was dug just a bit too deep.
The Kirkwood men’s basketball team — ranked third in NJCAA Division II — brought a nine-game win streak into its home contest with Division-I Southeastern of Wednesday night at Johnson Hall. The visiting Blackhawks scored 34 of the first 46 points in the game and won 75-63.
“I just thought they came out with a lot more aggressiveness,” sixth-year Kirkwood Coach Bryan Petersen said. “Put us on our heels. We weren’t tough. And it was really a lot of different phases of the game that was exposed. Maybe finishing at the rim, some rebounds, defending at the rim. They just came out and were just ready to take it to us and we weren’t ready for it.”
At the NJCAA level, Division-I teams typically have a bit more size and athleticism than their lower-division counterparts. Kirkwood — with its winning tradition and administrative commitment — has long been able to minimize that perceived gap.
For much of the first half, the Eagles appeared overmatched. Southeastern (12-2) never trailed in the contest and the closest margin was two points at 8-6. From that point, the Blackhawks used a 26-6 explosion to extend their lead to 22 points at 34-12 late in the first half.
Kirkwood (10-2) started to push back in the final seven minutes before halftime. The Eagles switched their defense and started getting to the free-throw line with some regularity. An 18-6 Kirkwood surge trimmed the deficit to 10 points by halftime at 40-30.
“Obviously we had to switch up or defense because we couldn’t guard them man to man, which was really disappointing,” Petersen said. “That helped for certain parts. We just never got in a rhythm offensively. That was the big key, but what got us back into that point was when we went to the zone. It afforded us to get a few stops, and we were able to kind of claw our way back into a five-point game.”
A traditional three-point play by Kirkwood freshman forward Kyle Appel got the Eagles within five points at 58-53 with 6:34 left in the game. With 2:58 remaining, Kirkwood trailed by six at 66-60. One dunk and five Southeastern free throws later, the deficit was back up to 13 at 73-60.
Southeastern had four players score in double figures. Kirkwood sophomore Doug Wilson – a South Dakota State signee who was a second team NJCAA Division II All-American last season – led the Eagles with 18 points, while freshman guard Devonte Thedford scored 12 off the bench. Sophomore reserve center Kyle Arrington grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
Kirkwood will host John Wood on Saturday, its last game before Jan. 5.
“We’ve got to finish the semester strong,” Petersen said. “This was really disappointing tonight. We had a great crowd. It was awesome to see that. We had a lot of support out there and to play the way that we did was really disappointing. We’ve got to figure out how we can learn from it, regroup tomorrow and have a good practice because they exposed our weaknesses with toughness. We will be talking a lot about that and try to get those ready to go for Saturday.”
AT JOHNSON HALL
Southeastern 75, Kirkwood 63
SOUTHEASTERN (75): Tyler Maye 4-9 3-4 12, AJ Cox 2-5 3-5 7, Jaquan Lightfoot 4-8 0-0 8, DeAndre Barton 1-2 0-0 2, Jerry Myles, Jr. 2-6 2-2 7, Steven Cager 5-6 2-2 12, Diew Moses 1-2 1-3 3, Trenton Massner 4-9 0-0 10, Kelvon Fuller 6-9 2-4 14, Totals 29-56 13-20 75.
KIRKWOOD (63): Seybian Sims 0-1 5-8 5, Allante Pickens 3-10 1-2 9, Connor Kasperbauer 3-6 0-0 7, Doug Wilson 4-12 10-15 18, Luke Appel 3-6 1-2 7, Devonte Thedford 5-7 2-2 12, Jamal Stephenson 0-2 2-2 2, Niko Gosnell 0-0 0-0 0, Kyle Arrington 1-2 1-2 3, Totals 19-46 22-33 63.
Halftime — Southeastern, 40-30. Three-point goals — Southeastern 4-9 (Massner 2-4, Myles, Jr. 1-1, Maye 1-3, Cager 0-1), Kirkwood 3-15 (Pickens 2-6, Kasperbauer 1-4, Arrington 0-1, Appel 0-2, Stephenson 0-2). Rebounds — Southeastern 34 (Lightfoot 7, Fuller 7), Kirkwood 22 (Arrington 7). Assists — Southeastern 12 (Cager 3), Kirkwood 8 (Thedford 4). Turnovers — Southeastern 15, Kirkwood 19. Total fouls — Southeastern 26, Kirkwood 18. Fouled out — Lightfoot, Wilson.
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