Kearney, Neb. – Senior forward Brady Werth scored 27 points and Fort Hays State hit two late three pointers to get past Nebraska-Kearney, 76-73, Tuesday night in Kansas.
This was the MIAA opener for both teams and the 130th all-time meeting between the longtime rivals. Hays improves to 5-3, with all five wins at home, while UNK drops to 3-4. The Lopers are still looking for its first true road win of the year (0-4).
It appeared that might happen tonight as Kearney was 12 of 26 from the three point line and led 71-68 with 2:22 left after a bucket by senior forward Carter Burns (Ankeny, Ia.). However, Hays got a three to tie things up and another one to move ahead 74-73 at the 1:30 mark.
While UNK committed an offensive foul on its next possession, Burns stole an entry pass with the shot clock winding down to give the Lopers another chance. After a timeout, freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney H.S.) was hoping to drive to the bucket but the Tigers bottled him up. A three from fellow freshman Henry Penner (Aurora H.S.) from the top of the key didn’t fall with 11 seconds remaining.
Hays made two subsequent free throws and a potential game-tying three from junior reserve Chase Winchester (DeSoto, Texas) drew iron with three seconds left.
“We’re proud of them. You look what happened at Wayne and the way that one went (87-58 road loss) … this was the next one up and I thought our kids competed. Anytime you go on the road and play in a tough place like this you just want a chance. We had one down the stretch,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “That last one is one me. We put Kanon in a tough spot and thought he could get to the basket and maybe to get the free throw line on that one.””
A 6-7, 225 pound senior, Werth was 9 of 16 (1 of 1 threes) from the field and 8 of 11 at the line. He added five defensive rebounds, three assists and two blocks to his offensive output, as well as getting several Loper post players into foul trouble.
“Brady is just a really good player. Our guys competed against him … he just made plays. He’s not a three point shooter (2 for 5 on the year) but he stepped out in the first half and made one. Once we got into foul trouble, he was hard to deal with,” said Lofton.
Junior guard Devin Davis played just 16 minutes but had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. The big three pointers came from starting guards Aaron Nicholson and Kyler Kinnamon.
“I told the guys in the scouting report number five (Kinnamon) isn’t a three point shooter but when there’s a big shot to be taken he takes it and usually makes it. And he stuck that last three,” said Lofton.
UNK’s 12 threes came from four different players with Penner having the hottest hand. He made 5 of 9 to tally a season-high 17 points with Winchester getting hot in the second half to the tune of 17 points on four free throws and three treys.
“When Chase plays angry he’s pretty darn good. He came off bench tonight with an edge and really gave us a shot in the arm, just like he did against the Colorado School of Mines,” said Lofton. “We inserted Henry into the starting lineup tonight and he stepped up and did a really good job.”
Next, Koster had his second career double double (11 points & 11 assists) with Burns having eight points and junior forward Kyle Juhl (Harlan, Ia.) tallying nine on three first half treys.
UNK was an even 50% (25 of 50) from the field with the Tigers, thanks to Werth, having a 35-24 advantage on the glass. Ten offensive caroms led to 13 second chance points for Hays with the teams combining for a stellar 56 bench points. The Lopers host Emporia State (4-2) Thursday.
Kearney, Neb. – The sixth/ninth ranked Fort Hays State Tigers went 23 of 29 at the free throw line and got a double double from senior forward Tatyana Legette to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 62-53, Tuesday night in Kansas.
This was the MIAA opener for both squads. The Tigers improve to 7-0 while the Lopers (5-3) see a five-game winning streak come to an end.
“We had it down to a two-point game with 7:55 to go against the number six team in the country,” said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey. “Their seniors made some plays late. I thought Legette and (Kacey) Kennett were big time for them. We told our team in the locker room we’re just proud of your effort.”
A veteran Tiger team came in ranked among the national leaders in scoring margin (+33.2), scoring offense (84.5) and free throws made (20.6 per game). Giving Hays its toughest battle to date, UNK led 15-14 after the first quarter and 17-16 early in the second.
However, a 16-3 run sparked by 10 points from Kennett, a junior guard, helped Hays grab control and they never trailed again. UNK scored just eight points in the second 10 minutes as it was 3-18 from the field and had four turnovers.
“They were plus 17 from the free throw line. While some of those came late when we were trying to extend the game, that’s still on us … we have to guard better and not foul.” said Eighmey. “We have to shoot a little better from the line but there’s a lot of positives to this game.”
Getting 21 points from sophomore guard Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) and 15 more from freshman forward Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.), UNK hung around and outscored Hays 22-15 in the third quarter. A bucket by senior forward Jaymie Bernbeck (Garden City, Kan.) made it j49-47 with 7:55 to go. But the Tigers closed the night on a 13-6 run that included nine made free throws. Like the second quarter, the Lopers had a couple of empty possessions and finished 4 of 12 (0 of 3 threes) during this 10 minute stretch.
“The crowd here does a fantastic job late in the shot clock. It was hard for us to get some calls in and that’s something we’ll definitely have to improve on before Thursday,” said Eighmey.
Legette tallied a game-high 23 points thanks to an 11 of 12 effort from the line and by making 6 of 12 field goals. She also had a team-best three assists with 11 of her 13 rebounds coming at the defensive end. Next, Kennett ended with 15 points while three teammates were between six and seven points.
UNK out rebounded Hays by a 35-34 margin, held the Tigers to 36% (18 of 50) shooting and forced 12 turnovers. FHSU did score 14 of its points off of 16 Loper turnovers with Kearney going 6 of 13 at the line. Finally, both squad made three shots from behind the arc.
“At times I thought we were the toughest team on the floor. It’s a lot for us to build on, especially going into Thursday night against another Top 25 team,” said Eighmey.
Sanger, one shy of her career high point total, was 8 of 16 from the floor and made all three of UNK’s triples. Going all 40 minutes, she also had two rebounds, an assist, block and steal. In the front court, McCool made 7 of her 13 shots while grabbing nine boards (four offensive). Finally, starting guard Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) and reserve post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn South H.S.) combined for 10 points, nine rebounds, four assists, two blocks and two steals.
UNK faces 24th-ranked Emporia State (6-1) on Thursday night