Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball got 16 rebounds and 12 points from sophomore guard Klaire Kirsch and closed on a 28-8 run to stun No. 3/5 Fort Hays State, 73-65, Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center. This was the MIAA opener for both teams and the 93rd all-time meeting between the Lopers (7-0) and rival Tigers (6-1). UNK doesn’t have time to celebrate as it visits longtime MIAA power Emporia State (5-2) on Thursday night. To record its first win over a top five team since an 82-76 decision at Missouri Western State in January 2016, UNK had to overcome a 57-45 deficit with just 7:48 to play. The Lopers held the lead for nearly 17 minutes in the first half but the Tigers, coming off a 32-2 campaign, came out strong in the third quarter to the tune of a 24-11 run. They were also strong in the opening moments of the fourth before a barrage of Loper threes. “When we were down 12 it was one of those moments where we had to make a move. Hays isn’t easy to score on … I thought our team kept its composure and kind of played one possession at a time instead of trying to get it back all at once,” Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey said. “We had some kids step up and make some big plays. Maegan (Holt) hit a couple of key threes in that late stretch, Aspen (Jansa) hit a big three, and Madison (Dreckman) as a freshman did some nice things.” Against one of Division II’s top defensive teams, UNK finished 11 of 24 from behind the arc and hit three straight bombs to trim the deficit to three, 57-54, by the six minute mark. Hays managed to its lead back to four but UNK finally tied things at 60 thanks to a jumper in the paint by Iowa sophomore Maegan Holt.
While the Lopers shot an even 50% (8 of 16) from the field over the final 10 minutes, Hays cooled off to 31% (6 of 19). That included a 0 of 5 effort from downtown with Kearney fittingly taking the lead for good on a top of the key triple by Kansas sophomore forward Elisa Backes. That made it 63-60 with 2:27 left. Overall UNK was just 14 of 22 at the line (64%) but was plus seven on the glass, got 20 bench points and held Hays to an overall 3 of 16 effort from the arc. Finally nine different played scored. “This is a great way to kick it off and have a good start to the conference season,” Eighmey said. “I think our balance helps us. We have a lot of kids that can score in a lot of different ways. It makes it a little bit easier when the defense can’t key in on just one or two players.” Kirsch’s second career double double featured 13 defensive caroms and a 3 of 3 effort from triple land in the first half. The rebound total is just two shy of the school record and the most rebounds by a Loper in the MIAA era (2012-present). Next grad transfer and point guard Haley Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) had 11 of her 15 points in the second half with Holt also strong over the final minutes (12 points, two assists & two rebounds). Finally Backes had eight points, five boards and two dimes with Iowa freshman reserve post Madison Dreckman at six points and three rebounds. Hays got 20 points from Oklahoma State transfer Jaden Hobbs and a combined 26 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks from forward Lanie Page and Belle Barbieri.
Kearney, Neb. – Four players scored in double figures and Nebraska-Kearney used a big second half to roar past rival Fort Hays State, 74-60, Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center. This was the MIAA opener for both and the 132nd all-time meeting between the Lopers (4-3) and Tigers (4-3). UNK has a quick turnaround as they visit Emporia State (5-3, 0-0) on Thursday. The Hornets were off tonight. Things didn’t look good early as Hays, not known for its perimeter shooting, drilled three early triples to lead 12-2 four minutes in. That advantage was quickly whittled down to three but then ballooned back up to double digits, 29-17, by the 5:50 mark. That’s when the Lopers made a huge move, closing the half on a 12-3 run and then starting the second on a 16-9 spurt to grab the lead for good. UNK seemingly couldn’t miss, whether it be a three or a backdoor layup. At one point Kearney was shooting 75% (12 of 16) from the field in the second half. Later, Bellevue senior forward AJ Jackson beat the shot clock with a step back three from the top of the arc that banked in for a 60-45 lead. “In the second half we were more active on the boards, we got some mileage out of our three quarter court press and we did a good job defensively of taking them out of things they wanted to do,” UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said. “We also shot the ball well from the line (12 of 15) and guys were able to put it in the basket.”
Senior guard Devin Davis got close to a triple double for the Tigers (15 points, 10 rebounds & six assists) and his play helped his team get the deficit down to eight, 64-56, by the four minute mark. However, he missed a shot in the lane and then the Tigers missed a one-and-one opportunity. UNK put then nail in the coffin when Texas senior lefty Chase Winchester nailed a three from the left wing, sending the lead back into double digits. “From an adversity standpoint I was really proud of how our guys came through. First half we’re down and it looks like they may run away with it. But we fought our way back into it and then they stretched it again,” Lofton said. “In the second half we stuck together. It wasn’t one guy going nuts … we moved the ball well and got good shots. Guys that score it well for us we got them the ball in the right places.” Getting 25 bench points and shooting 53% (27 of 51) on the night, UNK was paced by Kansas senior forward Morgan Soucie. Including a fast-break dunk in the second half, he was 7 of 12 from the field and tallied all of his points in the second half. Next, Utah junior guard Jake Walker went 4 of 9 from downtown to score a team-high 20 with Jackson at 11 points, seven boards, three blocks and three dimes. “The second half was probably our best half of the year and also could be one of our best efforts of the year,” Lofton said. Finally for UNK Spalding sophomore Noah Valasek came off the bench to have 11 points and two steals with Winchester at five points and three assists. Besides Davis Hays got 14 points and seven rebounds from forward Jared Vitzum.