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IWU basketball gives Goshen a long day

DROPPING A DIME: Indiana Wesleyan's Joel Okafor drops a pass off to teammate Seth Maxwell during the second half of the Wildcats, 86-58 win over Goshen on Saturday afternoon in Luckey Arena.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

It's a tough time of year to be a leaf, not that any time over the past few basketball seasons has been a good time for Crossroads League opponents to visit Luckey Arena.

Indiana Wesleyan's Wildcats, both the men's and women's teams, served up an emphatic reminder of just how difficult it can be to visit the South Marion campus. The Goshen Maple Leafs would be on the business end of that blunt statement made by both Wildcat teams during Saturday afternoon's Crossroads League doubleheader.

Using the same basic formula in both contests, the Wildcats turned a tenacious defensive effort into relatively easy wins. 

The NAIA Division II 21st-ranked IWU women used a 17-0, first-quarter run to start the onslaught before cruising to an 89-40 win in the opener, before the defending national champion and top-ranked Wildcat men raked the Leafs, 86-58.  Both teams moved to 3-0 and stayed atop the Crossroads League standings.

Ethan Whaley's ladies found themselves down 5-2 to Goshen more than two minutes into the contest but scored the next 17 points and took a 19-7 lead through the first 10 minutes. Things progressively got tougher for Goshen from there.

The Wildcats then held the Maple LEagues without a point for nearly six minutes in the second quarter and without a field goal until just 3:09 remained before halftime, and IWU extended its advantage to 33-11 and 44-17 by intermission.

Good shots were not existent for the Maple Leafs and sometimes any shot was difficult to find in the opening 20 minutes as Goshen hit just 6-of-23 from the floor. Indiana Wesleyan also forced 12 first-half turnovers and converted them into 11 points.

"The word that we say a lot is connected. I think we have five tough defenders at all times on the floor, but it doesn't mean anything if you're not connected," Whaley said. "We were connected on switches, on ball screens and on post defense. That's a pretty good Goshen team and I felt like our effort and our unity really took them out of what they wanted to do."

While the IWU defense was doing its thing, freshman Margot Woughter came up with the best performance of her young career. The 5-foot-7 point guard from Traverse City, Michigan, poured in a career-high 27 points, 15 in a 35-point point, third-quarter outburst that moved IWU in front 79-33. Woughter hit 9-of-12 shots, 7-of-9 from 3-point range, and added two assists with a steal and only one turnover.

"Margot is a fun story because it's proof when you come in and you work everyday, you watch film and you seek to grow, you're going to grow," Whaley said. "This was the best game she's played in her college career. As a freshman you don't expect that every night, but it was nice to see her work pay off."

The Wildcats had three other players score double figures: sophomore Dayton Groninger finished with 16 points, Elaina Ededuwa had 11 and Nicole Ignasiak 10. Groninger and Ededuwa each pulled down seven rebounds.

IWU outrebounded Goshen 43-30 and the Wildcats dominated paint scoring, 40-16.

Greg Tonagel's men's team faced its second game in a row without having All-American sophomore Kyle Mangas in its lineup. And for the second time in as many outings, versatile 6-10 senior Evan Maxwell stepped up in Mangas' absence.

Maxwell scored the first eight points of the game, hitting a pair of triples in the process, and much like the women did earlier, used a tenacious half-court defense to subdue the Maple Leafs. 

Evan Maxwell would score 15 of his game-high 21 in the first half, making all seven of his field goal attempts. His brother Seth Maxwell, a 7-foot freshman, dropped in 11 of his 18 in the second half to fuel the rout. 

"He's stepped up in the absence of Kyle Mangas and we knew Evan could do it," Tonagel said. "It's one of those blessings in disguise, when a guy goes down, who's going to step up into a big role and Evan is doing that."

Seth Maxwell added a game-high 11 rebounds, Evan had five and both blocked a shot, as IWU held a 47-33 rebounding advantage. 

"They compliment each other," Tonagel said of the Maxwell brothers. "They're unique talents and they've figured out a way to make it happen."

After Indiana Wesleyan moved in front 8-0 less than three minutes after the opening tip, Goshen would draw within 13-10 and 17-14 before Trevor Waite swished home a '3' to put IWU up 20-14 just over nine minutes in.

Demarkus Stuckey scored a two for the Maple Leafs 10:35 before halftime, but Goshen would go nearly five minutes with no more points. 

The Wildcats forced four turnovers and scored 11 straight points over the next three minutes to take a 31-16 lead. It was just the beginning of a 27-6 finish to the half and a 47-22 lead at intermission for IWU.

Goshen hit just 8-of-28 (28 percent) in the half while Indiana Wesleyan made 17-of-26 (65 percent).

 

"Our defense continues to get better. We're getting all the guys on the same page," Tonagel said. "It obviously helps when you've got a kid like Joel (Okafor) who can take a player out of the game, but we're getting great team effort by everybody else."

Okafor scored six points, grabbed six rebounds and handed out five assists for the Wildcats. Waite finished with 13 points, Canaan Coffey added nine and Isaiah Payton had seven. Coffey and Jonathan Mpanzu both grabbed six rebounds.

Mangas injury isn't considered to be serious, but Tonagel believes the absence of the Warsaw, Indiana native, will help strengthen the team through the remaining 15 games on the Crossroads League schedule.

"We'll get him back, but it helps us right now because it's forcing guys to grow that otherwise hide behind Kyle," Tonagel said. "Lets face it, we can all sit and watch him at times because he's that good."

Indiana Wesleyan's men (11-1, 3-0) will take to the road for its next four games staring Tuesday in Fort Wayne at Saint Francis, then Saturday at Spring Arbor. The Wildcats will step out of league for a pair of games in Florida against No. 11 Southeastern (Florida) and Warner (Georgia) on Dec. 15-16 and close the calendar year at home against No. 16 Indiana Tech on Dec. 28. 

"We've got a tough stretch on the road here so we're going to have to continue to become more efficient offensively and continue to become disciplined, defensively," Tonagel said. "You go on the road every possession matters that much more so we're going to experience that."

Indiana Wesleyan's women (8-4, 3-0) go to Saint Francis on Wednesday and Spring Arbor Saturday.