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Kearney, Neb. – Four players scored in double figures and Nebraska-Kearney started the second half on an 8-0 run to roll past Central Oklahoma, 74-58, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
UNK (9-5, 2-3) improves to 8-1 at home while the sliding Bronchos fall to 11-4 (2-3). Less than a month ago UCO was ranked 22nd in the WBCA Division II Top 25 poll but has now dropped three of four.
The Lopers overcame the loss of leading scorer Kelsey Sanger (Crofton), who was called for two fouls in the first six minutes, to lead 35-29 at the break. Sanger sat out the last 14 minutes of the half but her teammates closed the second quarter on a 7-1 run to grab the lead for good.
Sanger made up for lost time by knocking down a corner three to start the second half. Freshman guard Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) followed with another triple and then stole the ball which led to a Sanger layup and a 43-29 lead. UCO called timeout but never got closer than 12 points the rest of the night.
“Our end of the first half was really good and then we came out to start the second half and a couple of shots went down. We also strung together three or four defensive stops and that’s deflating for the other team,” said Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey.
Hitting four of its five threes in the third quarter, UNK made 48% (28 of 59) of its shots, was plus eight on the glass and had a 46-28 advantage in points in the paint. Finally, 13 offensive caroms led to 14 second chance points.
“We played great team defense. Our team did a great job of executing the game plan and defended without fouling,” said Eighmey. “Each week we get better and better at team defense. We’re beginning to understand you guard the ball and not just one player.”
A balanced attack was led by freshman post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn H.S.) who had a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds. She was 7 of 14 from the field with five of her boards coming at the offensive end. Next, Sanger had 13 of her 15 points after the break with sophomore guard Adreon Bell (Independence, Mo.) supplying 10 points, five boards and for dimes.
Off the bench, freshman guard Aspen Jansa (Wahoo) knocked two threes to tally 12 with freshman forward Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) getting close to her third double double of the year (10 rebounds and eight points).
“Early in the game they were trying to pressure us in the full court to disrupt our offense. They are really good in transition and they were trying to create opportunities,” said Eighmey. “Once we settled in and grasped what they were trying to do to us I thought our team got more comfortable. We were able to go down and execute and then we were able to get several stops in a row at the defensive end.”
UCO was led by junior post Ireon Smith (14 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals). UCO shot just 36% (22 of 62) from the field, including a 4 of 21 effort from behind the arc.
UNK hosts the Northeastern State RiverHawks Saturday afternoon at two. NSU (3-11, 0-5) fell at No. 4 Fort Hays State tonight, 88-50.
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Kearney, Neb. – The Central Oklahoma Bronchos shot 52 percent from the field and used 9-0 run midway through the second half to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 77-70, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
UCO (8-6, 1-4) picks up its first MIAA while UNK (5-9, 0-5) has now lost five league games by a combined 20 points.
The Bronchos, led by junior guard Ashford Golden (19 points & nine rebounds) and senior forward Adarius Avery (15 points, nine rebounds & six assists), never trailed but also couldn’t shake the Lopers until the very end. UNK hung around thanks to 11 made three pointers and a big night from sophomore reserve Austin Luger (Alliance) but that run, as well as 18 turnovers, proved to beat the difference.
“They are a talented team that was knocking down shots and playing together tonight. We try and keep our turnovers to 10 or less … it’s going to be hard to beat anybody when you have 18,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “Every single time we got close they had a response and it was usually number three or number ten.”
A three from freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney H.S.) made it 59-58 with 10:28 to play. Golden missed a jumper soon after but then Koster was called for a charge, his fourth foul of the night. With Koster on the bench the ‘Chos scored the next nine points getting a three from reserve Jaylan Williams and turning three Loper turnovers in to seven points.
“Kanon getting into foul trouble and AJ (Jackson) getting injured really hurt us. Kanon on offense and AJ at the defensive end,” said Lofton. “Kanon had a pretty good first half but couldn’t really get into a rhythm in the second half. He made plays when he could but it’s a learning experience. You have to defend without fouling.”
The Lopers had one more run in them, getting a triple from junior forward Kyle Juhl (Harlan, Ia.) to make it 74-70 at the 3:18 mark. Junior Morgan Soucie (Oswatomie, Kan.) followed with a block but Luger and freshman Parker Badding (Carroll, Ia.) saw shots rim out on UNK’s next two possessions. UCO closed things out with a bucket by Avery and a free throw.
A member of Loyola’s 2018 Final Four team, Avery was 7 of 11 from the field with all nine of his boards coming at the defensive end. Golden made 8 of 15 shots (3 of 5 threes) and grabbed seven defensive caroms with fellow starter Marquis Johnson at 12 points and two assists.
Luger tied his career-high of 14 points by making 6 of 14 shots. In 28 minutes off the bench he also had seven rebounds, one assist and a steal. Next, Koster had team-highs in points (19) and dimes (seven) as well as seven boards with Juhl reaching double digits for a fourth straight game. He hit four threes, as did Koster, to score 18. Finally, Jackson (Bellevue West) did return after taking a hard foul trying to defend a Broncho charging baseline. He managed nine points, seven rebounds and four steals in 19 minutes.
UNK hosts the Northeastern State RiverHawks (6-8, 0-5) Saturday at four. NSU lost tonight at Fort Hays State, 69-65.