Kearney, Neb. – Junior guard Jake Walker tallied 25 points, tying a season-high, and senior forward Morgan Soucie scored 24 to help Nebraska-Kearney beat Central Missouri, 78-74, Saturday evening in Warrensburg.
The Lopers (15-9, 9-6) won its fourth road game of the year despite the loss of Bellevue senior forward AJ Jackson (14.3 points & 4.2 rebounds per game) who was injured in Thursday’s loss at Lincoln. He had scored 20 points in three of the last four games.
“I’m extremely proud of them. We were obviously short-handed without AJ … he’s kind of our emotional leader and to not have him out there was tough,” UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said. “We needed to find a way to get it done and we did.”
In a back and forth game that featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes, UNK erased a six-point second half deficit thanks to a 12-4 run. Walker (Centerville, Utah) hit two threes in this stretch with a layup by Soucie (Osawatomie, Kan.) making it 63-61 with 5:26 remaining.
The Lopers didn’t trail again but the Mules, who went 10 of 19 from behind arc, hung around and forced UNK to make some free throws. Texas senior lefty Chase Winchester did just that, going 4 of 4 at the line in the final 23 seconds. He also made a layup at the 1:59 mark to push the Kearney lead to three at 72-69.
“We had to be gritty, play hard, play smart and play together. No one guy was going to do it … everyone had to find a way to pitch in,” Lofton said. “We had one true big on the floor and they didn’t beat us on the boards. We played winning basketball for the most part.”
Having seven fewer turnovers than the Mules (9-15, 4-11), UNK went 9 of 11 at the line in the second half and won despite UCM shooting 54% (26 of 48) from the field.
Walker went 6 of 10 from three-point land and also made five of six free throws. His fifth 20-point game of the year, he had 25 in last Saturday’s win over Newman. Next Soucie made 9 of 16 shots and fell a rebound shy of a double double with Winchester going all 40 minutes and providing 11 points, two boards, one assist and no turnovers.
UCM had three starters and reserve in double figures including Omaha redshirt freshman Shae Wyatt (10). He also is a standout wide receiver in on the Mule football team. The Lopers host Rogers State and Northeastern State next weekend.
Kearney, Neb. – Seniors Morgan Fleming and Megan Skaggs combined for 45 points and No. 16/24 Central Missouri sunk 27 of 28 free throws to beat No. 22/25 Nebraska-Kearney, 75-65, Saturday afternoon in Warrensburg.
This battle for first place in the MIAA standings was the only meeting between the Jennies (20-4, 14-1) and Lopers (23-3, 12-3) this season. UNK sees an 11-game win streak come to an end and falls to 1-8 all-time vs. UCM.
“It was a one-point game early in the fourth. I didn’t think it was our effort or the ability to play hard. It comes down to make plays at the right time and they made some timely ones,” UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey said. “They have two outstanding seniors and they carried them in the fourth.”
On “Senior Day” it was fitting Fleming and Skaggs carried the Jennies to victory. Each played 36 minutes with Fleming tallying a game-high 24 points (11 of 12 FT’s) and grabbing eight boards while Skaggs ended with 21 points (11 of 11 FT’s), six rebounds and three steals. The pair, combining for 22 fourth quarter points, helped UCM go 19 of 19 at the line over the final 10 minutes.
Crofton junior guard Kelsey Sanger nailed a three with 7:22 remaining to make it just a two-point deficit, 47-45. However UCM responded with an 18-4 run over the next four minutes to salt things away. This key stretch featured three of the Jennies eight made threes with Skaggs and Fleming each hitting one. UNK hit four threes in the final three minutes to make things a bit interesting but UCM, a 75% free throw shooting team, didn’t miss at the line.
“We had our chances. When we had a three-point in the first half it should’ve been five or seven. We took five more shots than they did but we missed a few around the basket. Their length did cause some problems,” Eighmey said. “Offensively we kept our heads down at times and missed some open people.”
The Lopers were out rebounded by just two and shot 42% from the field. Making seven of 14 free throws, UNK almost got a double double from Elkhorn sophomore post Brooke Carlson (15 pts., nine rebs.) while South Dakota sophomore Klaire Kirsch (12 rebs., 10 pts.) did record her third double double of the winter. Eight others scored including six points apiece by reserves Elisa Backes (Salina, Kan.) and Madison Dreckman (Le Mars, Ia.).
Besides Skaggs and Fleming UCM got nine points, five assists and three steals from junior guard Gigi McAtee. UNK hosts Rogers State and Northeastern State next week.