Men’s basketball upsets No. 15 MNU

Story by Chad Mullens

The Baker University men’s basketball team came back from a 20-point deficit to defeat the No. 15 MidAmerica Nazarene University Pioneers 90-85 on Tuesday in Collins Center.

After falling behind 53-33 with 0:52 in the first half, head coach Sean Dooley had to help inspire a defense that was giving up a 67-percent shooting to the Pioneers.

“We knew that if we got out and guarded them, then it would be a lot easier to score,” he said. “They battled all throughout the game, but they kind of got in foul trouble in key positions in the first half, but we ended the half on a 5-0 run, which gave us some momentum going into halftime.”

The Wildcats used that halftime momentum to go on a 29-11 run to start the second half.

Freshman Javieon Gray scored 23 points, going 7-8 from the field and a perfect 9-9 on free throws, including 6-6 in the final two minutes to seal the game.

“For him to come out and play like that in his first MidAmerica-Baker game, a big rivalry game, that was outstanding,” Dooley said.

Junior EJ Carter also had a hot-shooting night, going 8-13 on field goals and 8-8 from the line to lead the team with 24 points. But like Dooley, Carter believed the difference came on the defensive end.

“Coach has been preaching it since September, since before the season started,” he said. “And we, tonight, finally started to click and do what we were supposed to do, and the offense just came to us.”

The Wildcats’ other double-digit effort came from senior Todd Johnston, who scored 17 points, and made all three of the team’s 3-point field goals.

“TJ got hot a little bit, and we just rode him,” Dooley said. “I don’t think we took him out in the second half, and normally I don’t do that, but there was something about him today, the fire that he had, that I was like, let’s see what he can do.”

Dooley praised the defensive effort the team gave in the second half, holding an MNU team that came into the game averaging 99 points, to just 30 in the last 20 minutes and 26.7 percent shooting.

“Our big guys were a little more physical in the second half, but I credit the whole team, because when you stop those guys, it’s not just one guy, it’s a team effort,” he said.

Carter holds this victory very near to his heart, as he obsessed over how the Pioneers swept the Wildcats last year, three games to none, the last of which came on a last-second shot.

“It means everything to me,” he said. “It’s been a grudge match. All summer long, all I did was watch film on them. I held the scouting report right up above my bed. Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it’s real cold out here in Baldwin City.”

After going 4-4 in its non-conference schedule, Baker starts conference play at 1-0. Carter thinks that this is just the beginning for the Wildcats.

“If we can do what we need to do on the defensive end, like coach Dooley keeps telling us, then we can do anything,” he said.