Kearney, Neb. – Junior forward Kyle Juhl scored a career-high 23 points and Nebraska-Kearney closed on a 24-7 run to edge Emporia State, 59-53, Sunday evening in Kansas.
The Lopers (6-11, 1-7) win its first MIAA game and first road contest of the 2018-19 season. This also marks UNK’s first win at White Auditorium since the 1986-87 campaign (32 years). Back then the Lopers and Hornets (7-9, 2-6) were Central States Intercollegiate Conference (CSIC) and NAIA members.
It was a slow and defensive struggle throughout with the teams combining for just 40 first half points. Both teams shot less than 28% in the opening half with E-State up 23-17.
Emporia held the lead for 32 minutes and was up 30-19, 44-33 and 46-35 in the second half. Down 11 with 7:11 left, UNK’s big run started with a bucket by senior forward Carter Burns (Ankeny, Ia.) and then Juhl (Harlan, Ia.) took over. He hit three of his five made threes in a three-minute span to turn a seven-point deficit into a 48-46 lead with 2:16 left.
UNK wouldn’t trial again as they went 10 of 12 at the line to keep the Hornets at bay. The Lopers finished 14 of 16 at the charity stripe, one of its best efforts of the year.
“I’m proud and happy for our guys. They’ve been pretty resilient all year but we weren’t happy with the effort at Washburn (Wednesday) night and the film showed it. The kids stepped up and owned it,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “This was far from pretty, kind of like the first time we played them.”
Juhl had 21 of UNK’s 42 second half points as he finished 7 of 15 (5 of 12 threes) from the field and 4 of 4 at the line. He also had six defensive rebounds and no turnovers in 37 minutes.
“Kyle stepped up at the right time and got hot at the right time,” said Lofton. “The funny thing is I had to beg him to start shooting. He had hit a couple in the first half and then he went cold. At a certain point in the second half he caught the ball and was open in front of our bench and I said ‘shoot the ball.’ Luckily it went in and from then on he was pretty engaged.”
Coming off the bench for the first time this winter, Kearney freshman Kanon Koster had 14 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Working around foul trouble he made 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch. Next, Bellevue junior forward AJ Jackson had six points and a career-best 13 rebounds (four offensive) with Burns providing six more caroms, four points, two assists and two blocks in just 15 minutes.
Both squads shot 33% from the field with UNK having a huge 47-28 advantage on the glass. That led to 15 second chance points wile E-State managed 16 points off of 17 Kearney turnovers.
“Kanon came in and got some big rebounds and was good at the line late, AJ was active and got his hands one some balls and Carter gave us some solid minutes. He communicates well on both ends of the court and that helps our guys out,” said Lofton.
The Hornets were led by Bellevue West graduate and Bowling Green State transfer Malik Hluchoweckyj. One of two ESU players in double digits, he had 16 points and four rebounds.
UNK hosts No. 2 Northwest Missouri State (17-0, 7-0) Thursday night. The Lopers stunned the Bearcats, 66-59, last January at the Health & Sports Center.
Kearney, Neb. – Freshman post Brooke Carlson scored five late points to help Nebraska-Kearney stun Emporia State, 64-62, Sunday afternoon in Kansas.
This is the Lopers (11-6, 4-4) first win at White Auditorium since the 1988-89 season. At that time it was Kearney State College and both the Lopers and Hornets (12-5, 3-3) were members of the Central States Intercollegiate Conference (CSIC).
Emporia was coming off a last second 54-51 win over previously unbeaten Fort Hays State Wednesday night. UNK suffered a last second loss at Washburn that same evening and came out a bit angry today, jumping out to leads of 6-0, 12-4 and 20-7.
That lead only grew in the second quarter with Kearney up 34-15 at the break. Ahead by as many as 22 points, everything went right for the Lopers over the first 20 minutes. UNK was 14 of 29 from the field (48%), made 3 of 4 free throws, forced nine turnovers and held ESU to 6 of 27 (22%) shooting. For added measure, two key Hornet starters had two fouls apiece.
However, E-State started to warm up a bit in the third quarter, hitting 8 of 13 (3 of 5 threes) shots. The Lopers held off the Hornets a bit thanks to four threes but it was 50-35 entering the final quarter. That’s when Emporia really made its move, starting the final 10 minutes on a 14-0 run. UNK was just 2 of 19 (11%) from the field in the fourth but a three-point play from Carlson (Elkhorn H.S.) with 2:14 left erased a 54-53 deficit. Overall, ESU led for just 2:42 on the day.
At the 1:37 mark UNK benefitted from a key call as junior guard Jessica Wayne was called for a flagrant foul while trying to steal the ball from Carlson. She promptly hit the two free throws and then sophomore guard Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) did the same six seconds later on the ensuing possession. Now down 60-54, Emporia had a chance to tie things up at 60 but a three from grad transfer Emily Miller with 20 seconds left misfired and UNK went 4 of 6 at the line to salt things away
“With their rich tradition, they have like a 92 or 93 winning percentage in this building. For us to come in here against a well-coached team and win …. we’re just proud of our girls. What a first half; I’m not sure I’ve ever been a part of a half like that,” said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey. “They started to speed us up in the second half but we withstood that for the most part. We were aggressive against their pressure.”
Another balanced Loper attack featured double doubles by freshman starting guard Klaire Kirsch (14 points, 11 rebounds & five assists) and freshman reserve forward Shiloh McCool (14 points & 12 rebounds) and a team-best 18 points from Sanger. Carlson managed seven points, six assists, four boards and two blocks battling 6-3 senior post Tiana Moala and 6-0 senior forward Tyra Jones.
This marked McCool’s team-high fourth double double of the year and Kirsch’s first.
“We’re connected right now. You can’t fake it and you can’t make it up. Our kids like each other, they let us coach them and they are fun to be around,” said Eighmey. “Credit our team for bouncing back and to come in here and win.”
UNK had a 39-32 rebounding margin, had a 10-2 advantage in second chance points and a 20-6 advantage in bench points. Finally, 21 Lopers points came courtesy of 19 Hornet turnovers.
Emporia saw Jones get hot in the second half and finish with a double double (20 points, 10 rebounds, three assists & three steals) with two other starters combining for 25 points. The Hornets went 17 of 29 (59%) from the field after the break but also made just 8 of 14 free throws overall.
“We’re going to celebrate this one a little bit longer than the 12-hour rule,” said Eighmey. “And then we’ll see if we can continue to this momentum, get better and protect our homecourt.”
UNK hosts Northwest Missouri State (6-10, 2-5) and Missouri Western State (9-7, 4-3) next weekend.