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Kearney, Neb. – Freshman Maegan Holt and Klaire Kirsch both had season-high point totals to help Nebraska-Kearney stave off Northeastern State, 80-72, Saturday afternoon at the Health & Sports Center.
UNK (10-5, 3-3) is now 9-1 at home and tied for fifth place in the MIAA. Meanwhile, NSU drops to 3-12 (0-6) and to 2-10 all-time vs. the Lopers.
Holt (Council Bluffs, Ia.) went for a team-high 20 with Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) making half of UNK’s 10 threes to tally 17. The duo also combined for 12 rebounds as UNK dominated the first 23 minutes, opening up a 57-28 lead with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter. However, the ‘Hawks got off the deck and went on a 23-3 run over the next nine minutes to quickly get the deficit into single digits. This stretch featured four made triples; NSU was 1 of 11 from behind the arc in the first half but 6 of 11 in the second.
Kirsch and Holt seemingly stopped the ‘Hawk comeback as each buried threes to make it 66-51 with 7:42 remaining. However, a 15-2 NSU run followed capped by a three from sophomore guard Cenia Hayes. She had one of the top nights – 24 points, 17 rebounds, six assists and two blocks – in H & S Center history.
The three from Hayes made it 68-66 with Kirsch hitting her final trey of the night soon after to give UNK some breathing room. A key bucket by senior post Jaymie Bernbeck (Garden City, Kan.) made the score 73-68 with just over two minutes remaining and NSU didn’t get any closer.
“It was a tale of two halves. In the first I thought we executed our offense and defensively we were prepared. Our girls took a lot of things away from them that they do well,” said UNK head coach Carrie Eighmey. “In the second half we had some defensive breakdowns and gave up some open looks to 14 (Haynes) and 20 (Cailyn Long) who got hot. Both are good shooters who are capable of great days if you let them. Offensively in third quarter we missed five or six layups … when we’re missing and they are hitting threes the score can change quickly.”
UNK went 11 of 32 (34.3 pct.) from the field after the break while NSU made 18 of its 31 shots (58.1 pct.). Overall, the Lopers scored 15 points off of 11 offensive rebounds and made 20 of 26 free throws.
“(The comeback) wasn’t for a lack of effort by our team. A series of events, when you string them together, shifts momentum. They made about every shot they took for a six or seven minute stretch and we didn’t” said Eighmey. “It’s definitely a learning experience and helps our team us understand how good every team in the MIAA is.”
Besides Holt and Kirsch, sophomore point guard Adreon Bell (Independence, Mo.) had 11 points, four boards and two steals, freshman post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn) had 15 points, five rebounds and three dimes and freshman forward Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) managed a team-best nine rebounds coming off the bench.
Hayes, her team’s leading scorer in the year, started 1 of 10 from the field but made four threes in the second half, as well as 10 of 10 free throws, to reach her game-high point total. Fifteen of her rebounds came at the defensive end and she went all 40 minutes. Next, Long carried the ‘Hawks in the first half and ended with 21 points while post Joi Bertrand supplied 16 points, four boards and three blocks.
UNK heads to Washburn (10-4, 5-0) Wednesday night.
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Kearney, Neb. – The Northeastern State RiverHawks shot 54 percent from the field and sunk 11 three pointers to down Nebraska-Kearney, 70-61, Saturday evening at the Health & Sports Center.
NSU (7-8, 1-5) stops a nine-game losing streak to UNK (5-10, 0-6) who’ve now dropped six league games by a combined 29 points. The ‘Hawks have suffered four MIAA losses by just 19 total points.
Leading from start to finish, the ‘Hawks got 23 points and eight rebounds from senior guard Tanner Mouse and an unlikely 17 points and three assists from junior guard Bradley George. He came in with six made threes and 75 points on the season. Both Mouse and George had 13 points in the first half with the duo combining to go 8 of 12 from behind the arc. As a team NSU drilled 11 of 20 (55.0 pct.) from down town.
“They didn’t miss. On Thursday night they got Hays down three points with less than a minute to go so obviously they are a good team,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “They came in playing like team that wanted to win a game on the road. We came out flat, for whatever reason, and really didn’t play defense to the level we expect. That allowed them to get off to a great start.”
Besides Mouse and George, junior guard Trent Cantrell had seven of his 12 points after the break with 6-10 junior post Aaron Givens supplying seven rebounds, four points and two blocks.
UNK outscored NSU 32-18 in the paint thanks to a career-high 18 points by sophomore forward Weston Baker Magrath (Marshall, Minn.). However, the Lopers were trading two pointers for three pointers all night long and never caught the ‘Hawks. Kearney, going a super 14 of 15 at the line, made just 3 of 18 long range shots.
Cantrell sank a three as the first half buzzer to give his team a 41-29 lead. The cushion remained in double figures until a 10-3 Loper run made it 64-59 with 2:03 to play. UNK go two points closer a minute later but NSU got a layup from Bradley, his only bucket of the second half, with 39 seconds left to make it a two possession game. The Lopers missed a subsequent three and then Bradley made two freebies to put things on ice.
“We responded in the second half and cut it to three late to give ourselves a chance. But when you give another team that much of an advantage from the start it’s kind of hard to make that up,” said Lofton. “First half I didn’t recognize our team. Second half that’s the team that scrapped at Southwest Baptist and Central Missouri, trying to find a way to get a win.”
Baker Magrath went 8 of 12 from the field and 2 of 2 at the line to reach his point total. He also blocked three shots and had two steals in 28 minutes. Kearney freshman Kanon Koster (14) and Alliance sophomore Austin Luger (12) reached double figures as well with Luger grabbing a team-best seven rebounds. Finally, Lincoln sophomore Sam Morris came off the disabled list for the first time since mid-November and had three rebounds and an assist in 12 minutes
“We can’t have a case of the ‘poor me’ (attitude) because things aren’t going our way right now. We’ve had a lot of games come down to the wire that we haven’t been able to pull out. Eventually that takes a toll but at the same time we have 13 games left. We have to get guys playing better moving forward and giving the max effort that we ask for each and every practice and game,” said Lofton.
UNK heads to Washburn (11-3, 4-1) on Wednesday night.