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Bolivar, Missouri– True freshmen Elisa Backes and Brooke Carlson scored 18 points apiece to help Nebraska-Kearney rally past Southwest Baptist, 74-70,Thursday night in Bolivar, Mo.
By erasing a deficit as big as 13 points, this young Loper team (8-4, 1-2) picks up its first road win of 2018-19 and drops SBU (4-8, 1-2) to 4-4 on its home court.
“Before the game we talked about when adversity hits to just be the same people and keep fighting. We’re really proud of our how our group battled,” said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey. “We had a rugged start but found a way in the end.”
One of the top scoring teams in the MIAA, the Bearcats showed why early on as they erupted for 26 points in the first quarter. SBU sunk 11 of its first 19 shots, including a 4 of 5 effort from behind the arc, to build leads of 26-15 and 30-17.
UNK slowed things down and whittled the deficit to five, 49-44, by halftime. The Lopers limited the ‘Cats to 4 of 16 shooting (25.0 pct.) in the second quarter while going 5 of 6 at the line. However, SBU countered with a strong start to the third quarter, going up 49-38 after Laura Vierkant made two free throws for her only points of the game. UNK closed on a 6-0 run that featured four points from Carlson (Elkhorn H.S.) and a layup by Wahoo freshman guard Aspen Jansa.
The Lopers finally regained the lead, 50-49, early in the fourth quarter after a put back bucket by Backes (Salina, Kan.). The teams then traded blows, UNK going up by four and then SBU moving ahead by three. Finally, Kearney outscored the ‘Cats 7-5 in the final 56 seconds with Backes tallying six and blocking a late three point attempt.
The UNK bench outscored the SBU reserves by a whopping 47-12 margin. The teams combined for 33 offensive rebounds with the Lopers managing 20 second chance points. A tightly called game, UNK was a solid 26 of 34 at the line. SBU, meanwhile, attempted just 15 freebies.
“We talked at halftime about how great our bench was. They kept us in it and even the players not in the game were talking, being positive and supporting each other,” said Eighmey.
Facing All-MIAA post Caylee Richardson, Carlson reached her season-high point total by making 6 of 8 shots and 6 of 7 free throws. Getting Richardson into foul trouble, Carlson also had a team-high seven rebounds. Next, Backes tied her season-high point total thanks to seven made free throws and five made field goals (one three). Her point total came in just 17 minutes and she has now made 12 of her last 17 shots to be at a team-high 63 percent on the season.
Finally, Crofton starting guard Kelsey Sanger had 11 points, five boards and four steals in a team-best 38 minutes. “Brooke continues to get better each day in practice. She went to what she knows in her training so it was really cool to see her have a big game,” said Eighemy.
SBU saw four of its starters score in double figures led by guard RayShee Smith (16) and forward Morgan Henderson (16). Richardson had 13 points and six rebounds over 28 minutes.
UNK plays defending national champion Central Missouri Saturday afternoon. The 15th-ranked Jennies fell tonight at home to fifth-ranked Fort Hays State, 56-46.
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Bolivar, Missouri – Five-nine sophomore guard Chris Rossow recorded a steal and then went down court and hit a 10-foot floater in the lane with six seconds left to help Southwest Baptist edge Nebraska-Kearney, 78-76, Thursday night in Bolivar.
SBU (8-4, 2-1) improves to 8-2 at home and keeps an amazing streak alive against the Lopers in Bolivar. The Bearcats are 6-0 all-time vs. UNK (5-7, 0-3) in games held at the Meyer Sports Center; those six wins have come by a combined 25 points. On the season, Kearney’s last four setbacks have come by a combined 13 points.
“It’s just another close one … you look at all of our conference losses. They are all one possession games and we’ve just got to find a way to breakthrough,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “Taking better care of the ball will help and going 6 of 14 at the line isn’t very good.”
UNK led by as many as 14 in the first half but SBU slapped on some full court pressure on in the second half and not only cut the deficit but moved ahead by six. Overall, the score was tied 12 times and there were 10 lead chances with the ‘Cats moving ahead 76-72 with 3:33 left after getting five straight from starter Godfrey Rolle.
Two free throws from Bellevue forward AJ Jackson (Bellevue West) and a put back bucket by sophomore post Weston Baker Magrath (Marshall, Minn.) tied things up with 38 seconds remaining. While SBU missed a shot soon after, that’s when Rossow recorded his winning play. A deep three from the left wing by junior forward Kyle Juhl (Harlan, Ia.) was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.
Rossow finished with a game-high 23 points on 8 of 18 shooting (2 of 5 threes). He also had four steals, four boards and three assists.
“We turned it over a bit too much in the second half. They went to their press and when we weren’t turning it over, we couldn’t find any rhythm once we got it across half court,” said Lofton. “But I’ll give it to our guys; we still gave ourselves chances. They seemed to make every play when they needed to. Banked a three in and had a couple of other fortunate rolls but those things happen when you’re playing at home.”
Both teams shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half with the Lopers ahead in the shootout, 45-39. The ‘Cats, going 20 of 29 at the line compared to 6 of 14 for the Lopers, led 69-63 at the 6:53 mark before UNK made another move.
Baker Magrath tallied a career-high 17 on 7 of 11 field goal shooting. Pulling down eight rebounds (four offensive), he also had two blocks in a season-best 36 minutes. Next, freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney H.S.) had 17 on 7 of 12 (2 of 4 threes) shooting while also supplying five boards, two assists and two steals. Finally, Jackson and Juhl combined for 24 points, 11 rebounds and six steals.
Besides Rossow’s heroics, SBU saw three other starters reach double digits as well.
“This is the kind of game you stay up all night thinking about. One play here, one play there. One free throw here, one free throw there. Two possessions before the end we had a chance at a point blank put back and it went halfway down and spun back out. Those are the plays you think about,” said Lofton. UNK heads to Central Missouri on Saturday. The Mules (8-4, 1-2) handed Fort Hays State a 63-54 setback tonight.