Kearney, Neb. – Reserve sophomore forward Justin Washington had a double double and Emporia State made five free throws in the final 33 seconds to edge Nebraska-Kearney, 60-56, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center. UNK fall to 3-5 (0-2) while this was the Hornets (5-2, 1-0) league opener. They travel to Fort Hays State on Saturday. In game where both squads shot under 42% from the field, E-State led for 25 minutes including 55-49 with 2:38 to play. Loper freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney H.S.) hit back-to-back threes, the second coming from the far left wing, to knot things up at the 1:21 mark. UNK was poised to take the lead back after a steal but Emporia turned the tables, getting a steal of its own that led to a foul and two free throws. Senior Kooper Glick, who had the theft, went 1 of 2 at the line to give his team a 56-55 lead with just 33 seconds remaining. After a Loper timeout, Koster drove baseline but his shot didn’t fall. He managed to get an offensive tap but that also didn’t go down and Emporia grabbed the defensive rebound. This time the Hornets made both freebies and then fouled UNK with six seconds remaining, preventing the Lopers from taking a potential game tying three. ESU then sunk two more freebies to close out the scoring.34214 “I thought we competed but the ball just didn’t go through the basket. Defensively we got down and scraped and gave ourselves some opportunities. We had some looks but we couldn’t capitalize on them, both early in the game and also down the stretch,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton.
A 6-6, 225 pounder, Washington had 15 points and 11 rebounds (four offensive) in 31 minutes. Emporia got 28 bench points overall and outscored UNK 34-24 in the paint. The Lopers bombed away all night, going 7 of 30 from behind the arc. The 30 attempts are 10 shy of tying the school-record. “It’s kinda of tough right now … we don’t have a Trey Lansman to throw it down there and really establish himself as a dominant post player,” said Lofton. “We’re have to rely on spreading the floor, setting ball screens and trying to get guys going downhill into the paint. If they get all the way there great, but if not you have to kick it and move it until you find an open guy. At Hays, we shot the ball well (12 of 26 threes). If we shoot half as well tonight we win the game.” Also for E-State, Omaha senior lefty guard Malik Hluchoweckyj had 11 points, seven assists and three steals with Glick at 11 points, six defensive caroms and two steals. Koster had a season-high 25 points thanks to 11 of 21 (3 of 6 threes) shooting.
Over 35 minutes he also had three of UNK’s five steals and two assists. Next, junior guard Chase Winchester (DeSoto, Texas) had another big effort off the bench, recording a double (11 points, 10 rebounds & six assists). Finally, junior post AJ Jackson (Bellevue West) grabbed nine rebounds, blocked four shots and tallied six points. “I’ll give it to our guys. They were on the floor, taking charges, getting deflections and making hustle plays. They scraped but it just didn’t go our way tonight,” said Lofton. UNK hosts the Mount Marty (S.D.) College Lancers Sunday at Kearney High School. Tip time is 2 p.m. for a game that was originally supposed to be played on December 1 but was postponed due to weather.
Kearney, Neb. – Senior forward Tyra Jones had a double double and graduate transfer Emily Miller made five three pointers to help 24th-ranked Emporia State get past Nebraska-Kearney, 72-64, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center. ESU (7-1, 1-0) wins its league opener and avenges an 84-79 loss to the Lopers (5-4, 0-2) late last year in Kearney. The Hornets are at No. 6/9 Fort Hays State on Saturday. For a second straight game a young Loper squad, minus starting point guard Adreon Bell (Independence, Mo.) due to injury, took a nationally-ranked team into the fourth quarter. Like in Tuesday night’s loss at Hays, a rough second quarter hurt UNK’s chances at an upset. Kearney was outscored 19-7 tonight in the second and 20-8 two days prior. The culprit in the quarter was ESU’s defense, a combination of full-court pressure, trapping and several zone variations.
UNK had to navigate this minus Bell and sophomore guard Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) who was called for two early fouls. “They started to extend it and pressure the ball more. We had a couple of players get into foul trouble and that got us a little bit out of sync. Kelsey has so much experience … having her get two fouls in the second quarter was difficult and challenging for us,” said Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey. “We turned the ball over and that led to pretty easy transition buckets for them.” The Lopers erased an early 11-3 deficit thanks to a 20-4 run that featured three triples by freshman forward Maegan Holt (Council Bluffs, Ia.). UNK led 18-13 at the end of one and 23-15 early in the second before ESU ratcheted up the pressure. The Lopers committed nine of its 14 turnovers in this quarter, leading to 10 Hornet points, and also went 3 of 12 (0 of 4 threes) from the field. “So much of playing offense in college is about dictating the pace you want to play at. Not allowing the other team to speed you up and make decisions you don’t really want to make. It’s difficult for a young team to get acclimated to,” said Eighmey. Kearney never regained the lead in the second half but also never let the deficit get bigger than eight points.
A Sanger jumper early in the fourth made it a two-point game, 51-49, and then a layup by freshman forward Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) kept the deficit within striking distance at 63-58. However, Jones hit a rare three soon after and then her teammates salted things away at the line. “We adjusted well to their defense in the second half. We settled in and did a much better job of not putting the ball on the floor for no reason. We had a purpose in what we were doing,” said Eighmey. A former junior college All-American and Duquesne (Pa.) transfer, Jones had 25 points, 11 rebounds (four offensive), three steals, two blocks and two assists. She made 9 of 18 shots and 6 of 8 free throws over 35 minutes. Miller, coming in from D2 power Drury (Mo.), made 5 of 9 three point shots and also added six boards (all defensive) and three assists. Finally, two other Hornet starters were in double digits with E-State going 19 of 26 at the line and 9 of 21 from behind the arc. “If she (Jones) shoots the ball like she did tonight she is going to difficult for everyone to guard. Our game plan was to force her to take midrange jumpers and shots from the perimeter,” said Eighmey. Thanks to that early barrage, Holt had a season-high 18 points to pace the Lopers. She made three of UNK’s four threes and also grabbed four offensive boards. The Blue & Gold managed an amazing 20 o-boards but they led to only 15 second chance points. They did help the Lopers outscore the Hornets 36-12 in the paint. Next, McCool got going in the second half to the tune of 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Finally, Sanger got close to a double double (eight assists and seven points) with freshman reserve forward Elisa Backes (Salina, Kan.) at nine points and five rebounds. UNK is now off until Saturday, December 15, when the Nebraska Christian College Sentinels come to town.