Kearney, Neb. – Three players scored in double figures and Nebraska-Kearney held Missouri Western State to 25 percent shooting from the field to win 62-53 Saturday afternoon at the Health & Sports Center.
The Lopers (12-7, 5-5) improve to 10-2 at home and avenge a 60-57 setback to the Griffons (9-9, 4-5) in last year’s MIAA Tournament.
It was not a thing of beauty as the teams combined for 48 fouls and 51 free throw attempts. Missouri Western had three players foul out with three Loper starters sitting some in the first half due to two fouls apiece.
UNK shot 44 percent (20 of 46) from the field and was plus eight on the glass but 20 turnovers helped the Griffs hang around. Using an offense predicated on driving to the rim and getting fouled, Mo West went 23 of 35 at the line to hang around until the end. The 35 attempts are the most by a Kearney opponent this year.
“I thought our energy was much better than Thursday and our communication was way better. That eliminates so many mistakes and we play so much better when we’re communicating well on the court,” said Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey. “With a young team, we work on our communication daily and it’s something our team has improved upon as the year has gone on. But we still can get better.”
MWSU made five shots in the first and fourth quarters but were a combined 4 of 30 (1 of 7 threes) in the middle quarters. However, the Griffs whittled down a 15-point third quarter deficit to four, 57-53, with 46 seconds remaining. Freshman guard Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, SD) knocked down four straight free throws and freshman post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn) added another to keep the Griffs at bay.
Missouri Western ended up 14 of 57 (2 of 9 threes) from the field. The 24.6 percent is the lowest by a Loper Division II opponent since Sioux Falls ended up at 23.6% in a 2012 loss. UNK had eight steals, blocked five shots and limited one of the MIAA’s top three point shooters, Katrina Roenfeldt, to just eight shot attempts.
“As always we try and pay attention to who we’re guarding and understand what they are good at. In the second half we did a better job of taking away their strengths and forcing them to do some things they aren’t comfortable with,” said Eighmey.
Offensively, Carlson had an efficient day, scoring a team-high 15 points in just 19 minutes. She was 6 of 6 from the field and 3 of 5 at the line. Next, Iowa freshman forward Maegan Holt had 13 points and seven rebounds (four offensive) with Kirsch providing 11 points, five caroms and five assists in 27 minutes off the bench.
“One of the things we challenged our kids today was to be willing to expend some energy to get great shots and not settling for average ones,” said Eighmey. ” MWSU had three starters reach double digits, led by guard Melia Richardson with 11. UNK hosts No. 8 Fort Hays State (18-1, 9-1) next Saturday.
Kearney, Neb. – Senior forward Lavon Hightower had 27 points and 11 rebounds to help Missouri Western State hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 83-79, Saturday evening at the Health & Sports Center.
With the win, the Griffons stop a four-game losing streak and improve to 9-11 (3-6) while the Lopers fall to 6-13 (1-9). Eight of UNK’s losses have come by a combined 37 points.
Averaging 18.8 points and 7.4 rebounds coming in, the 6-6, 205 pound Hightower reached his team-high point total by going 8 of 11 from the field (4 of 5 threes) and 7 of 10 at the line. Ten of his rebounds came at the defensive end and he also had four assists and two steals in the 37 minutes.
Mo West went on a 14-6 run to lead 79-71 with 2:57 left to play. This key spurt began with a three and ended with a three; the Griffs finished 8 of 21 from behind the arc.
MWSU seemingly had things sewn up as they were ahead 80-75 with 24 seconds remaining. However, junior guard Chase Winchester (DeSoto, Texas) made a free throw, rebounded an intentional miss on the second and found freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney) for a three from the top of the circle.
Hightower was quickly fouled at the 12 second mark and made the subsequent free throws to put his team up three. UNK then called timeout to setup a potential game tying play. However, an open three from the left wing taken by junior Kyle Juhl (Harlan, Ia.) hit iron and the Griffs grabbed the rebound.
“It worked out perfect as far as the look he got. Honestly, I didn’t think he would get that clean of a look because we had a small lineup in and I thought they would switch everything along the baseline. (Henry) Penner did something really smart … he slipped out of it and that caused two of their players to sit there and decided what they wanted to do. That give Kyle the look,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “We’ll give to him again. I believe in Kyle and the shot just didn’t go in.”
UNK led 64-59 midway through the second half but Mo West responded with a 6-1 run to regain the lead. Millard South graduate Tyrell Carroll had a three point play and made another free throw to get the Griffs going. The freshman guard finished with 17 points, four dimes, four boards and three steals.
“We pressed a bit when we were ahead. Carroll got going and that and one was key for them. We had a couple of turnovers and maybe a bad shot during their run,” said Lofton.
Koster paced the Lopers with a season-high 31 points, nine rebounds, three assists, a steal and two of UNK’s season-best seven blocks. Going all 40 minutes he made 12 of 22 shots (3 of 5 threes) and 4 of 5 free throws. Finally, Koster grabbed two of the Lopers 11 offensive rebounds.
Back in December, he had 30 points in a home loss to Emporia State. Koster has now reached the 20-point mark four times this winter.
“I’ve got to give them credit. They had 12 offensive rebounds in the first half. It seemed like anytime it came off the rim they were able to grab it,” said Lofton. “We turned that around a bit in the second half but that (offensive rebounds) was their life blood in the first half. That and Hightower got it going.”
Next, Lincoln sophomore Sam Morris had a season-high 13 points thanks to five freebies and four buckets. Off the bench, Aurora freshman Henry Penner had six points, six rebounds and two assists.
Mo West won the battle on the glass by one, 38-37 while UNK shot a bit better from the field, 45-42 percent. Finally, the teams combined for just 13 turnovers.
UNK has only one game next week, a Saturday afternoon tilt vs. the Fort Hays State Tigers (13-6, 7-3). No. 2 Northwest Missouri State won in Gross Coliseum today, 81-69.