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Kearney, Neb. – Junior Klaire Kirsch grabbed 16 rebounds and tallied 13 points as Nebraska-Kearney roared past Lincoln, 68-53, Thursday night in Jefferson City, Mo.
This was the first game for both teams since December 20. UNK moves to 7-0 for a second straight year while the Blue Tigers, under first-year head coach Andrea Mize, falls to 0-6.
The Lopers took charge from the opening tip and used an 11-0 run to lead 18-6 after the first quarter. UNK went inside early and often with Iowa junior forward Maegan Holt scoring a quick six and Kirsch tallying five over the first 10 minutes.
“I thought we played well especially coming off a long break. We had some really good practices and I thought we were locked in,” UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey said on the KRVN radio postgame show. “We were up 11 at the half but we played better than that. Credit them … they kept battling and pressed a little bit.”
Lincoln, down by as many as 22, hung around for a while and made a couple of runs to get the deficit into single digits. A bucket in the lane by junior post Virja Lewis made it 31-24 early in the second half. However, the Loper response was a Kirsch three and back-to-back layups by Holt. Suddenly it was 38-24 and the Blue Tigers didn’t get closer than 15 points until the waning moments.
“It was a team win. We used 12 players, got good contributions from our bench and were locked in defensively,” Eighmey said. “I’m excited for our team because they are so focused. They want to be great.”
After shooting a season-best 48% to beat Northeastern State, UNK was at 46.7% (28 of 60) tonight. They also were plus 11 on the glass, got 35 bench points and tallied 14 points thanks to 11 offensive caroms.
Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) records her first double double but this marks her third game with a double digit board total. She also had 16 rebounds in a December 2019 win vs. Fort Hays State. The Loper individual game record of 18 was set by Julie Volquardson in 1985 game vs. Missouri Western State and then tied by Heather Steffen in a 2003 contest against Chadron State.
She was 5 of 10 (3 of 7 threes) from the field with 12 of her boards coming on the defensive end. Next, Holt was 7 of 12 from the floor to lead UNK in points (16) with reserve forwards Shiloh McCool (13) and Elisa Backes (12) combining for 25. The pair went 11 of 15 from the floor, had eight assists, seven rebounds and two steals in 32 minutes.
Lincoln got 12 points and four steals from 5-5 sophomore guard Niyah Jackson with its bench tallying 30. That group was led by 5-3 freshman guard AJ Bradley (nine points, eight rebounds, two assist and two steals).
UNK heads to nationally-ranked Central Missouri on Saturday. The Mules are also 7-0 after a 79-72 win over Fort Hays State tonight.
“This is a chance to go play a really good team at their place. We have a ton of respect for their program and how they run things,” Eighmey said. “Last year we had a chance but they got us in the fourth quarter. It’ll be a physical game and a great opportunity for us.”
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Kearney, Neb. – The Lincoln Blue Tigers had four starters score in double figures and hit several big threes down the stretch to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 67-60, Thursday night in Jefferson City, Mo.
This was the first game for both teams since December 20. Lincoln improves to 5-2 and 4-0 at home while UNK falls to 2-6. This is the Lopers third straight loss in Jeff City; they’ve also seen all eight of their games decided by 12 points or less.
Things were tied up at 13 with seven minutes gone by when Alliance senior forward Austin Luger picked up his second foul. After the Blue Tigers hit a jumper in the lane Utah senior guard Jake Walker was dinged with his second foul. He and Luger came in averaging a combined 33 points per game.
“It was real sobering to watch us play without Austin and Jake on the floor for the majority of the first half. We really struggled to find ways to put points on the board,” UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said on the KRVN radio post-game show. “I thought the zone helped us a ton throughout the course of the game. But one of the problems with being in a zone for extended periods of time is shooters find a rhythm. And they hit two big threes at the end that gave them a comfort zone.”
Leading for 37 minutes on the night, Lincoln was up 33-26 at the break and then moved ahead by 13 with 15 minutes left. However, that’s when Luger got hot to the tune of 23 second half points. He made 7 of 12 shots including 5 of 7 effort from downtown while going 4 of 4 at the line.
“I think he pressed in the first half. He knew it was a big game for him because their post (Sait Witt) is regarded as one of the better ones in our league,” Lofton said. “For Austin to go out and perform the way he did is really nice to see. It’s not a fluke; he’s put in a ton of time and much like Morgan Soucie he’s found his confidence. He’s waited for an opportunity and he’s showing he’s a really good player.”
UNK whittled the deficit to four and three points several times, the last coming at 54-51 with 5:54 remaining. The Lopers forced a shot clock violation but a Walker fadeaway baseline jumper hit iron. Lincoln then got a three from senior guard Ni’Sean Rigmaiden from the right wing to make it a two-possession game. Earlier Kearney was down four when junior guard Yaniel Vidal saw his three roll around the rim before falling for a 46-39 lead.
“We put ourselves in position and I’m proud of the guys for that. We did miss some shots around the basket that came back to haunt us but at the end of the day we got it two a one possession game with the ball,” Lofton said. “We called out two or three sets that we didn’t execute very well. We have to continue to work with them and they have to keep their confidence up. We’ll find a way.”
After Rigmaiden’s big triple UNK didn’t get closer than seven points as the Blue Tigers finished the night 6 of 11 at the line. They did make 50% (25 of 56) of their shots while tallying 16 points off 17 Loper turnovers.
Luger went for a career-high 26 points in 27 minutes of work. He worked around four foals to also have three rebounds and an assist. His previous high of 21 points came last year in a big win at Colorado School of Mines. Next, Lincoln senior Sam Morris had 11 points, seven boards, three steals and two assists with Texas senior reserve guard RJ Pair at seven points and two assists in 20 minutes. Finally, UNK made 7 of 19 threes and had 28 points in the paint.
A balanced LU attack featured 13 points from junior post Sai Witt and 13 points, seven boards, five dimes and five steals from senior guard Cameron Potts. The duo combined to go 12 of 20 from the floor.
Kearney heads to Central Missouri Saturday afternoon. The Mules improved to 2-6 with a 71-64 decision over Fort Hays State tonight.