Maryville, Missouri – Junior forward Ryan Hawkins posted a double double and redshirt freshman guard Luke Waters had an important 13 points to help No. 2 Northwest Missouri State survive Nebraska-Kearney, 65-60, Thursday night in Maryville.
The Bearcats (17-1, 7-1) win a ninth straight game and improve to 117-6 since the start of the 2016-17 season. That includes a 56-2 mark in Bearcat Arena and a current 27-game win streak. Northwest, with a win Saturday over Fort Hays (7-10, 1-8), will be the nation’s number one team next week. Former MIAA member Southwest Baptist upset Bellarmine (Ky.), 79-74, tonight in Louisville.
Seeing a four-game win streak come to an end, UNK (12-6, 6-3) took a haymaker early on from a NW squad that fell 69-63 at Duke in an exhibition game back in November. The ‘Cats sunk nine of its first 12 shots, including four triples, to jet out to leads of 14-6, 25-8 and 33-14.
However, the Lopers closed the half on a 13-1 run and kept the deficit under 11 points after the break. Chipping away throughout the final 20 minutes, UNK had a chance to send the game into overtime but a contested three by Utah junior Jake Walker from the right wing misfired with nine seconds left and so did a three from the corner by Iowa senior Kyle Juhl with less than a second remaining. Hawkins capped a 24-point, 12-rebound night by hitting two subsequent free throws with four tenths of a second left on the clock.
“I’m proud of our guys. Early on it didn’t look good but we were able to settle in and the deficit was workable by halftime. Second half we kept chipping away, chipping away, had some guys step up and hit some shots,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “Defensively they are stingy. At times they made us look bad but our guys hung in there and we were able to get some things to work.”
Shooting a solid 46% (24 of 52) from the field and out scoring NW 33-31 in the second half, UNK trailed 39-37 with 17:06 to play. While the ‘Cats led by double digits nine minutes later, the Lopers came back once more with a triple by Juhl making it 63-60 with only 32 seconds remaining. The ‘Cats then missed the front end of a one-and-one to set up the frantic final nine seconds.
“Against Missouri Southern, horrible first half, good second half. We built on that. We’re going to have to do the same thing here,” Lofton said.
Having two 40-point games this year, Hawkins was 9 of 17 (4 of 7 threes) from the field with 10 of his boards coming on the defensive end. One of three starters to go all 40 minutes, he also had four steals, two assists and a block. Next Waters went for 13 on 5 of 7 shooting; he came in averaging 6.1 points per game. And junior guard Daric Laing recorded his 17th bucket of the year with 6:08 left to make it 55-49.
“Their length, athleticism, toughness got us out of sorts (early on). We weren’t setting the kinds of ball screens which we had been setting. They were blowing it up and pushing us off it. That’s their physicality,” Lofton said. “At other times we held the ball and it didn’t move the way it had been. We also had some guys pressing … it’s kind of a big game, big situation.”
Northwest star guards Trevor Hudgins and Diego Bernard were a bit off, Hudgins going 2 of 9 from the field (1 of 5 threes) and Bernard having five turnovers and missing three free throws. However they still combined for 15 points, 10 assists, seven boards, five steals and some key late plays. As a team the ‘Cats made 25 of 50 shots and tallied 17 of its points off 13 Loper turnovers.
For UNK Juhl and Bellevue senior forward AJ Jackson had 16 apiece with Walker adding 11. Jackson made 7 of 11 shots, Juhl was 4 of 8 from behind the arc with Walker going 5 of 10 from the floor. Juhl is now up to 152 career made threes, just two behind Drake Beranek (2007-09) for 10th place on UNK’s all-time list. Finally Texas junior guard RJ Pair had nine points and four dimes off the bench.
“Kyle getting going was a spark. It’s really nice to see him follow up the game he had Saturday with the game he had today. And he’s going to half to keep doing that,” Lofton said. “They lead the nation in three point shooting and you go to that (2-3 zone) thinking ‘oh boy here we go.’ But they missed a couple shots, didn’t execute on a couple of plays and we were able to get the rebound and hang in there offensively. It helped us but we probably went to the well one too many times with it in the second half.”
The Lopers head over to St. Joseph on Saturday afternoon to take on a Griffons squad (8-11, 4-4) that is now 6-0 at home after a 79-63 thrashing of Fort Hays State tonight.
Maryville, Missouri – Sophomore post Brooke Carlson recorded her second career double and freshman reserve forward Madison Dreckman hit four three pointers to help Nebraska-Kearney dominate Northwest Missouri State, 75-51, Thursday night in Maryville.
The Lopers (18-2, 7-2) push its win streak to six straight and avenge a home loss to the Bearcats (8-9, 3-5) last season. This is the only meeting between the two this winter with the all-time series now tied at seven.
“I thought our team came out and was ready to go. The way we played tonight … we were disciplined, we were the toughest team on the floor, we had great energy and our execution was off the charts,” said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey. “It’s one of those nights where you’re proud to be their coach. This group is special.”
This marks the 150th career victory for Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey. She won 68 games in three seasons at Hastings College and is now up to 82 wins in a five-year UNK tenure.
“She’s a winner in every sense. Is it always easy? No because it shouldn’t be easy to play in a good program. There’s going to be standards,” Devin Eighmey said. “She just is the same person every day and that’s very hard to fine.”
It was all Lopers from the opening tip as they led 9-2 and 24-9 after the first quarter. Dreckman (Le Mars, Ia.) hit three early triples as UNK made 10 of its first 17 shots including 4 of 6 from behind the arc. Northwest, down two starters, struggled offensively to the tune of 4 of 17 shooting (0 of 6 threes) over the first 10 minutes. They warmed up a bit in the fourth quarter but still ended the night 3 of 18 from three-point land and 4 of 10 from the line. They were Division II’s best free throw shooting club (82.3 pct.) coming in.
“Offensively it was like a clinic. We shared the ball really well. They had to iso us the whole game if they were going to beat us. We made adjustments from last year’s game. We saw that on film … that wasn’t Loper brand that you typically see on the floor,” Eighmey said.
Being plus 16 on the glass and shooting 50% from the field (54.4) for the seventh time this year, UNK had two starters and two reserves reach double digits. Carlson (Elkhorn), popped in the mouth in the early going, responded by having 22 points and 13 rebounds (four offensive). The point total ties her career-high, first achieved in the season-opener vs. Minnesota-Crookston, with the carom total a new personal best.
Carlson went 10 of 15 from the field, 2 of 2 at the line and had four steals to boot. Next point guard Haley Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) had 10 points and six assists with Dreckman in double digits (14) for the fifth time this year. She was 5 of 7 (4 of 5 threes) from the field and also grabbed four defensive rebounds in just 16 minutes of work.
Finally Kansas reserve sophomore forward Elisa Backes had another productive effort (12 points, four blocks & three boards) with South Dakota sophomore wing Klaire Kirsch at eight rebounds, four points and three dimes.
Northwest saw 5-9 junior starter and 6-2 freshman reserve post Paityn Rau go for 14 apiece. The pair combine to go 13 of 20 from the field; the rest of the ‘Cats was only 9 of 34.
UNK heads to Missouri Western State on Saturday afternoon. The Griffons (14-3, 6-2) blasted nationally-ranked Fort Hays State tonight, 75-58, to improve to 9-0 at home.