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Lopers Drop Two In Oklahoma

Lopers Drop Two In Oklahoma
UNK falls to UCO, Photo Courtesy UCO Sports Information

Kearney, Neb. – Senior forward Adarius Avery had 35 points and 10 rebounds to help Central Oklahoma get past Nebraska-Kearney, 88-83, Saturday evening in Edmond.

The Bronchos (11-15, 4-13) avenge an early season loss to the Lopers (10-16, 5-12) and now lead the all-time series between the two, 13-4. Due to injury Kearney was still minus a couple of key players in forwards AJ Jackson (Bellevue West) and Austin Luger (Alliance). UNK still has a chance at the 10-team MIAA Tourney as it is a game out of a four-way tie for 10th place.

A member of Loyola’s 2018 NCAA Final Four team, Avery came into the week as the only MIAA player averaging a double double on the season. He recorded his second straight 30-point effort by making 11 of 15 shots and 13 of 18 free throws. The 6-6, 200 pounder played 38 minutes and had 24 points after the break.

“No question this one was there. This one stings and the Lindenwood game (February 16) stings … those were two opportunities we had to really put ourselves into the postseason mix,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton.  “What it really came down to is they had a guy that no one has been able to stop of late. We didn’t have the answer for him.”

The game featured an unprecedented 12 ties and 10 lead changes. UNK, getting out to a 13-3 lead, shot a season-high 57% (35 of 61) from the field but was minus 12 on the glass and had eight free throw attempts to 29 for UCO.

A three-point play by Lincoln sophomore Sam Morris gave the Lopers a 61-56 cushion with 13:24 remaining. However, the ‘Chos countered with a 19-10 spurt to lead by four six minutes later. Buckets by Morris and Aurora freshman Henry Penner tied things up but an Avery dunk put UCO in the lead for good. A ‘Chos tip-in pushed the deficit to four and then Avery & Co. made a bunch of freebies in the final 34 seconds to salt things away.

“We tried a zone a bit, more so in the second half. I thought we got some minutes out of it but we just didn’t finish possessions. They got some offensive rebounds and those were really valuable to them down the stretch,” said Lofton.

Besides Avery’s heroics, UCO got double digit efforts from starters Josh Holliday (17) and Marquis Johnson (11) with reserve Colt Savage at 14 points and six boards. Finally, the ‘Chos made 54% (28 of 52) of its field goals and 79% (23 of 29) of its free throws.

For UNK, Morris went for a career-high 23 points thanks to 10 of 16 (0 of 2 threes) shooting. Going 3 of 5 at the line and also having two rebounds, he had 18 points after the break. His previous career-high point total of 17 came two years ago vs. Lincoln

“Sam is on one leg and giving us everything he’s got. You can tell he’s not 100 percent so you have to tip your cap to him because he’s competing,” said Lofton.

Not to be outdone, Penner had a season-high 19 points in 25 minutes off the bench. Sinking 8 of 11 (3 of 5 three) shots, this is his second straight and eighth double digit effort of the year. Finally, Iowa junior Kyle Juhl had eight assists, six points, three rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes. UNK hosts Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern State next week to close out the regular season.

Kearney, Neb. – Junior guard Shatoya Bryson scored 25 points and Central Oklahoma sunk 14 three pointers to outscore Nebraska-Kearney in overtime,93-92, Saturday afternoon in Edmond.

UCO (16-11, 7-10) avenges a 74-58 loss to the Lopers (15-11, 8-8) earlier this year and also grabs a one-game lead in the all-time series, 8-7.

UNK has ranked among the MIAA leaders in scoring defense all season, allowing around 60 points per game on 37 percent shooting. UCO erupted for 21 first quarter points and added 26 more in the third and 21 in the fourth to pick up a win in one of the highest scoring games in Loper lore. The ‘Chosshot 44 percent from the field (30 of 68) including a 14 of 30 effort from downtown. That total is the most by a Loper opponent this year.

“There’s lots of things that can get you beat. We missed some free throw box outs, we let them go baseline. Then they started lightening us up with threes in the third quarter. They are college basketball players … they can hit shots,” said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey.

Despite trailing 21-6 after 10 minutes and 78-66 with three minutes left in regulation, UNK still had two chances to win. However, a three from the right wing by Wahoo freshman Aspen Jansa was a bit long right before the regulation horn sounded. In overtime the Lopers got a defensive stop but a shot inside by Iowa freshman Maegan Holt didn’t drop with six seconds left and UCO grabbed the board.

“That start was as bad as it can be in college basketball. We were lucky we into halftime down one. Credit the girls for battling back and giving themselves an opportunity and a chance to win,” Eighmey. “We also were in a tough situation today with one of the officials down. They did a good job as a two-man crew.”

Finishing the day a strong 11 of 26 from the three point line, UNK closed regulation on a 16-4 run to force five more minutes. South Dakota freshmanKlaire Kirsch hit two threes in the final 24 seconds to cap the big run. A UCO team turnover then allowed the Lopers and Jansa a very surprising chance to win for the fifth time on the road.

In overtime UNK went 1 of 4 at the line but still led 90-89 after a layup by Elkhorn freshman Brooke Carlson. However, the ‘Chos followed with back-to-back buckets, the second being a tip-in by six-foot junior reserve post Ireon Smith (17 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks & three assists). Starting the extra session with a triple, Jansa scored UNK’s final bucket with 46 seconds remaining to setup the wild finish.

Four Loper starters reached double digits including 19 by Iowa freshman Shiloh McCool and a season-high 18 from Kirsch. McCool fell a rebound short of another double double while Jansa had nine points in 14 minutes off the bench.

Bryson did her damage thanks to 8 of 16 (2 of 7 threes) shooting with fellow starter Micayla Haynes providing 22 more points. Smith did all of her damage in just 29 minutes and, besides her post work, sunk three treys.

UNK hosts Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern State next weekend to close out the regular season.

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