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Great Day for UNK Hoops

Great Day for UNK Hoops

Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball team shot an even 50 percent from the field, had 14 second chance points and got a late three from junior forward Elisa Backes to upset No. 21 Central Missouri, 68-56, Saturday afternoon in Warrensburg.

This was a battle of the last two unbeaten teams in the MIAA. UNK (8-0) is now in sole possession of first place in the MIAA; the Lopers also pick up its first-ever win at UCM (7-1),  snap the Jennies 18-game home win streak and move to 2-8 all-time vs. UCM.

“This is a special group. They have some experience and the last two years we were down here it was decided in the fourth quarter. It was a six-point game at the half (today) but it felt like we had some self-inflicted wounds so it could’ve been more,” UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey said on the KRVN radio post-game show. “That third quarter (Lopers won 16-9) was a clinic the way we started. To come in here a get a win … it’s an unbelievable outcome for our program.”

The Lopers led for nearly the entire way thanks to its usual stingy defense, a season-high seven three pointers, its best shooting day of the year and 15 offensive rebounds. However, a young and talented UCM team went on a 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to make things more than interesting.

A top of the key triple from junior Maegan Holt made it 56-41 with 6:38 left. That marked UNK’s biggest lead of the game but UNK wouldn’t score for the next four minutes. During that time Central Missouri hit its own deep three, started to trap on defense, sunk six free throws and forced three turnovers.

Now up 56-52, the Lopers turned to Backes (Salina, Kan.) who hit a wide-open trey from the right wing at the 2:39 mark. While UCM countered with two more freebies, redshirt sophomore reserve forward Shiloh McCool followed with a layup and the Jennies didn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way.

“People don’t walk in here and get wins. We’re tough and we get after it. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means but we play hard and have a bunch of winners,” Eighmey said. “This team has a lot of special things left in them.”

Ten different Lopers scored led by Elkhorn junior post Brooke Carlson (15), Colorado point guard Haley Simental (10) and Backes (10). UNK was 25 of 50 from the field including a 7 of 16 effort from behind the arc. The Lopers were plus 12 in second chance points, got 25 bench points and held the Jennies to 38 percent (19 of 50) shooting. UCM also was out rebounded by 12 and committed 15 turnovers. They did score 20 off 20 Kearney miscues.

Carlson was 7 of 9 from the floor to reach her point total while also grabbing eight boards. Next, Simental went 5 of 5 at the line with Backes grabbing seven caroms and hitting two threes. Finally, McCool and fellow Iowa native Meg Burns scored five apiece with South Dakota junior Klaire Kirsch again in double figures (10) in board work.

“We have good shooters. The (perimeter) shooting was a big deal. We were out there confident and they were good shots and in rhythm,” Eighmey said. “Our team was really focused today. We laid the physicality today where a year or two years ago they had that advantage.”

UCM had two starters and a reserve in double figures including post Graycen Holden (13). She was 7 of 10 at the line; the Jennies finished 15 of 22 with nine of the makes coming in the final quarter.

UNK hosts Missouri Western State and Northwest Missouri State next weekend.

Kearney, Neb. – Senior forward Austin Luger had another big performance and Nebraska-Kearney hit seven first half three pointers to hold off Central Missouri, 72-69, Saturday evening in Warrensburg.

UNK (3-6) comes out on top for the second time in three outings and wins in the Multipurpose Building for a second straight season. The Mules, meanwhile, fall to 2-7.

UCM tallied the game’s first five points but the Lopers countered with a 10-0 spurt capped by a three from Luger (Alliance). After a career-high 26 points Thursday in a loss to Lincoln he went all 40 minutes today and had 21 points, 12 boards, five assists, two steals and drew four fouls.

“I didn’t like the start of it. I think maybe we were a little tight because they knew how important the game was. We still believe we’re a good team but we need to find a way to play 40 minutes instead of 30 or 35,” UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said on the KRVN radio post-game show.

After that mini first half run the Lopers didn’t trail the rest of the way as they went up 41-29 by intermission. The seven first half bombs came from Luger and New Zealand junior Matt Brien (three apiece) with Utah senior Jake Walker hitting the other. By rule UNK would have to play a close game as UCM attacked the basket early and often in the second half. They hit eight of their first 13 shots to get within 45-42 by the 14:33 mark. However, every time the Mules got close the Lopers had a response.

“In the first half we looked really good outside of the first two minutes. In the second half we were fine until that nine-minute mark, then it got to seven and then five and you have to buckle your seatbelt,” Lofton said. “It was great to see Matt come out and hit those first half threes. That’s how he is the entire practice.”

A Luger dunk pushed the lead back to seven, 54-47, and then it was 61-53 after another Luger bucket four minutes later. Junior Gavin Pickney converted a layup to get the deficit to three but Luger responded with two free throws to make it 66-61 with 3:47 left. The freebies came after a UCM elbow that the officials reviewed; the ball remained with UNK and Bellevue lefty Cedric Johnson drove to the lane for two more.

Finally, UNK was up three in the waning moments with the shot clock winding down. A turnaround three by Walker rolled around the rim and off. Johnson was called for a foul with eight seconds left and the Mules hit two free throws to make it 70-69. Texas senior RJ Pair caught the subsequent inbounds pass, drew a foul and made two freebies to finish the scoring. UCM got off a three from the top of the key but it was well short before the horn sounded.

“It definitely was not a thing of beauty over the last couple of minutes. Hopefully we’ll scratch a couple more out like this and they’ll get confident. The last two half, three minutes you could just tell we got sped up a little bit,” Lofton said. “But RJ stepped up to the line and stuck a couple of big free throws.”

UNK made just one second half trey but shot 43 (25 of 58) overall. They also grabbed 10 offensive boards, leading to 14 points, and got 22 points off its bench. Besides Luger’s heroics, Walker (13), Brien (12) and Lincoln senior Sam Morris (10) reached double digits. Six Lopers grabbed at least three rebounds as Kearney was plus seven on the glass.

Central Missouri had four players in double digits as well led by redshirt senior reserve Cameron Hunter with 19. The former North Dakota State Bison was 5 of 9 from the field and 7 of 8 at the line in 25 minutes of work.

Nationally-ranked Missouri Western State and Northwest Missouri State visit next weekend.

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