Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball team outscored Washburn by 15 points in the third quarter and sophomore reserve forward Elisa Backes had another big effort as the Lopers downed the Ichabods, 69-53, Thursday at the Health & Sports Center. UNK (16-2, 5-2) pushes its win streak to four while WU falls to 8-7 (2-4). This was the only meeting between the two this year. The 41st meeting between the two was decided right after halftime as UNK outscored the Ichabods by a 23-8 margin. This 10 minute stretch saw UNK shoot 60% (9 of 15) from the field including hitting three triples. Defensively the Lopers held WU to 25% (3 of 12) shooting and suddenly a tight ballgame was a 54-36 blowout. “In the first and second quarters we’d get a little bit of a lead and then they would go on a 5-0 run. Midway through the third quarter we were finally able to stretch it because we able to string together multiple stops on defense,” UNK head coach Carrie Eighmey said. “We also scored on some possessions but the really solid defense was key for us. We created a lot of deflections and steals. Elisa was really good for us … changing shots and forcing turnovers.”
Backes (Salina, Kan.), averaging a team-best 12.1 points over the last 10 games, had a big role in the third period outburst as she scored four points and had a couple of steals. South Dakota sophomore Klaire Kirsch had the hot hand as well, scoring five straight to make it 38-30 and start the big run. Kirsch scored 10 of her 13 points after they break while pulling down a team-best eight rebounds. She also had four of UNK’s 21 assists; the team made 25 baskets. Next Backes had a team-high 16 points, four boards and three steals in just 21 minutes of action. “I think Elisa is growing and understanding more and more everything that she can do. We’ve known it for a long time; she is so versatile. She is 6-2, athletic, long, can run, can shoot … she is really talented and is beginning to see it and believe it,” Eighmey said. Finally for the Lopers Iowa sophomore wing Maegan Holt supplied 12 points and four caroms with Colorado point guard Haley Simental dishing out a season-best 11 assists. That is only three off the school record, set by Darcy Stracke in a 1998 game vs. Fort Hays State. Washburn had three in double figures including starters Alexis McAfee and Mia Castaneda with 12 apiece. UNK hosts No. 16/18 Emporia State on Saturday afternoon. The short-handed Hornets (12-3, 5-1) were blasted by Fort Hays State on Wednesday, 87-55.
Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney men’s basketball team started and ended with a bang to dominate Washburn, 79-51, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center. The Lopers (11-5, 5-2) have won seven of its last eight while the Ichabods (8-7, 3-3) are now on a two-game skid. The 28-point margin of victory is UNK’s largest ever against Washburn and the biggest win over a D2 foe in five years. UNK nailed its first four threes to zoom out to early leads of 19-9 and 32-15. However, a bigger Washburn squad got the Lopers front court in foul trouble and some costly turnovers also helped the ‘Bods trail by just a 39-32 score at the break. “Getting off a strong start always feels good. That shows our guys were doing the little things and we executed really well offensively,” UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said. “Defensively we got out and guarded pretty well.” The Lopers started the second half on an 8-2 run to lead by double digits again but WU hung around once more, trailing 56-47 with just under 11 minutes remaining. That’s when the Blue & Gold exploded, finishing on a 23-4 run that featured almost no misses from the field.
“Early (in the second half) we were kind of shaky with their press. Our guys got their composure so we didn’t have to draw up a bunch of fancy stuff. They figured it out and we started to attack it,” Lofton said. “It’s good to see guys playing with confidence. The biggest thing I’m proud of is guys are truly playing for each other.” Kearney ended up shooting 66% (15 of 23) over the final 20 minutes included a 4 of 9 effort from downtown. Meanwhile WU missed a series of bunnies to come in at 31% (9 of 29). They also went 0 of 6 from behind the arc. Tallying 27 points off 18 WU turnovers, UNK had four starters score in double digits. That group was Iowa senior Kyle Juhl (16), Bellevue senior AJ Jackson (15), Kansas senior Morgan Soucie (15) and Utah junior Jake Walker (15). Juhl had one of his best games of the year, scoring seven of UNK’s first 10 points while grabbing a team-best nine rebounds. He also had three assists, two steals and no turnovers in 30 minutes of work. Juhl is now up to 143 made 3’s in his career which puts him just outside the Loper all-time top 10. Next Jackson was 6 of 7 from the field and 3 for 4 at the line with Soucie pulling down seven caroms and making 7 of 9 shots. Finally Walker was 6 of 13 from the floor and had four assists. As a team Kearney had 21 dimes on 30 buckets. “Chemistry has been huge. We’ve preached that and always have but we’re going overboard there. We want the team to have an identity … be a mentally tough gritty group that plays hard, that plays smart, that plays together,” Lofton said. “When they do that we feel like we can play with anybody.” Washburn was led by post Jonny Clausing (13 points & seven rebounds) and guard Jalen Lewis (12 points). UNK hosts Emporia State on Saturday afternoon. The Hornets (9-6, 3-3) lost at Fort Hays State on Wednesday, 56-46.