Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball team took advantage of an officials review and finished on a 22-5 run to rally past Missouri Southern State, 50-44, Thursday night in Joplin.
The Lopers improve to 13-8 (6-6) while the Lions fall to 12-11 (4-9). UNK is now in a tie with Missouri Western State for seventh place in the MIAA.This was the first game Kearney was minus sophomore Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) who was injured in the second half in last Saturday’s OT loss to No. 6 Fort Hays State. It’s expected she’ll return sometime this season.
“Our kids were tough all night. We defended at a high level and I thought we hit some shots we maybe normally don’t,” said Loper assistant coachDevin Eighmey. “A win on the road in this league is very difficult and I think the thing that is really neat is that we did it without one of our better and most reliable players. We also got good news on her and she’ll be back.”
On a day where ice and cold weather canceled classes at Missouri Southern, the two teams waged a defensive battle throughout. The Lopers and Lions combined to go 37 of 108 (34%) from the field with 32 turnovers. UNK led 11-8 after one quarter but tallied just 17 point over the next two to fall behind by nine.
Missouri Southern got some unexpected production from graduate transfer post Laure Assena (team-high 14 points) and reserve forward MorganBrightwell (seven rebounds) to lead 37-28 entering the fourth. A bucket by senior Chelsey Henry, the MIAA’s leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, made it 39-28 with 7:17 to play. UNK countered with a triple from freshman reserve Elisa Backes (Salina, Kan.) 14 seconds later to start the big run. On the play, freshman post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn) got tangled up with Assena and a double foul was assessed after a five minute delay.
“Elisa hit that three to kind of get us going. That double foul helped us settle in … we got a nice little break there. We talked about focusing on what we can control,” said Eighmey. “We can control our communication, defense and rebounding. If we do that, good things usually happen.”
UNK scored nine of the next 11 points to tie things up at 40, the first time the Lopers weren’t behind since early in the second quarter. While the Lions hit one of two free throws to go back on top with 3:17 left, Kearney closed on a 10-3 run that featured two layups by freshman forward Maegan Holt(Council Bluffs, Ia.). The second came with 10 seconds left and the shot clock running down. The game clinching bucket, a backdoor reverse layup, made it 48-44.
The Lopers gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and 17 turnovers led to 20 Lions points. However, UNK made 8 of 13 shots (2 of 3 threes) and went 4 of 4 at the line in the fourth quarter.
Carlson (12) and Backes (11) combined for 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting. Backes went 3 of 6 from behind the arc with Carlson pulling down a team-best nine rebounds. Next, Holt had 10 points (2 of 3 threes) with freshman guard Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, SD) limiting Henry to nine points on 4 of 14 shooting. Going 35 minutes from the point guard spot, she had seven rebounds, four assists, two points, a block and steal.
“Klaire did an outstanding job (on Henry). She has an ability to do whatever needs to be done and her mental toughness is off the charts. She’s a winner and we have a lot of those kids,” said Eighmey.
Assena, a 6-1 Cameron native who previously was at Division I Lipscomb (Tenn.) reached her team-best point total in just 17 minutes. She went 6 of 10 from the field and had three offensive rebounds. Six other Lions scored with starter Destiny Cozart joining Henry with nine points.
UNK heads to Pittsburg State on Saturday afternoon. The Gorillas (17-5, 9-4) were blasted by Fort Hays State tonight, 78-53. That marks their third straight home loss.
Kearney, Neb. – Missouri Southern State was strong early and late to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 72-67, Thursday night in Joplin.
The Lions (18-5, 9-4) improve to 11-0 at home while the Lopers fall to 7-14 (2-9) and to 2-6 in games decided by five points or less.
MSSU came in with four players standing at least 6-9 and 230 pounds. Due to injuries, two didn’t go and another went just five minutes. One of the DNP’s was sophomore Cam Martin (21.7 points & 8.9 rebounds per game).
The Lions adjusted to the lineup changes as they jumped out to a 28-8 lead seven minutes in. The Lopers did hit two early threes and then erupted for eight more over the next 13 minutes to trail by just a 43-42 score at the break. The 10 of 18 three point shooting is one of the best shooting stretches by UNK this season. MSSU overcame the 10 bombs by hitting eight of their own and grabbing 12 offensive rebounds. That strong board work led to 19 second chance points.
“That’s a really good team. Their guards are tough and hard to stay in front of … the big guy (Enis Memic) was a force and he normally is the backup,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “They did a tremendous job with offensive rebounds. That was their life blood early in the game.”
UNK managed a 7-4 o-board advantage in the second half and held the Lions to a 9 of 23 (39%) shooting effort from the field. Now a back and forth game, the Lopers went on an 11-2 run to open a 58-49 lead with 12:57 to play. This last UNK spurt featured two buckets by both Bellevue junior AJ Jackson and Lincoln sophomore Sam Morris.
However, MSSU outscored UNK by a 20-2 margin over the next eight minutes. Kearney went 1 of 13 from the floor during this stretch along with five fouls and a turnover.
Down eight with 3:55 left, UNK took advantage of four turnovers to give itself a chance to tie the game at 70. Running the same play that almost worked to perfection against Missouri Western State, Iowa junior Kyle Juhl went to the left wing to setup for a three. However, it was ruled he stepped out of bounds coming off a baseline screen. MSSU hit two subsequent free throws to finish the scoring.
“It didn’t look good early on but give it to our kids. They fought back and got themselves back in it,” said Lofton. “But they scored in bunches and they were able to get it going midway through the second half. We really couldn’t hold them off after that.”
Plus 11 on the glass, MSSU got double doubles from the 6-9, 235 pound Memic (19 points & 15 rebounds) and 2018 All-MIAA pick Elyjah Clark (13 points & 10 rebounds) as well as 20 points from 6-4 junior guard Kinzer Lambert.
Juhl went 4 of 9 from behind the arc to lead UNK with 16 points. Coming off a career-high 22 points last Saturday, Jackson remained hot and tallied 15 with Aurora freshman Henry Penner going 3 of 4 from downtown to tally 11 off the bench. Finally, Kearney finished 11 of 30 from the three point line. The 11 makes are a season-high with the 30 attempts 10 shy of the school mark.
“We had some really good looks (during that eight-minute stretch). The same looks we were getting in the first half but we just went ice cold,” saidLofton. “We really weren’t get anything around the basket with our post players. So we ended up taking a lot of jump shots.”
UNK heads to Pittsburg State Saturday afternoon. The Gorillas (14-8, 7-6) lost tonight to Fort Hays State, 77-75.