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Kearney, Neb. – Four starters scored in double figures and Chadron State shot an even 50 percent from the field in the second half to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 72-69, Wednesday night at the Health & Sports Center. The Eagles (1-2) win for the first time this season and pick up its first win in Kearney since the 1999-00 campaign. UNK led 38-37 at the break but made just four of its first 18 second half shots to fall behind by as many as nine points. The Lopers finished with a flurry, cutting it to a 72-69 deficit with 46 seconds left after two free throws by York senior guard Ty Danielson. Chadron ran the shot clock down but then couldn’t get a shot off, giving UNK a chance to tie. Pierce senior guard Lane Rohrich launched a three from near the top of the key with nine seconds left and then rebounded his own miss. Iowa sophomore forward Kyle Juhl was in the act of shooting a trey from the right wing when he was fouled by Chadron post Michael Johnson. Unfortunately for the Lopers, Juhl missed the first two freebies and then had to miss the third. He did and tapped the ball to Rohrich who fired a three from the left wing. It hit the back iron as the buzzer sounded.
“You got to take your hat off to them. They made the plays when they needed to,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “The shots he (Dru Kuxhausen) hit the first half I thought were guarded pretty well. In the second half, they made timely shots and had guys come off the bench and hit some shots.” The Lopers finished 6 of 25 (24 percent) from behind the arc, including a 1 of 13 effort in the second half. On the season, UNK is at 29 percent (19 of 65). Meanwhile, the Eagles were an efficient 8 of 17 with Kuxhausen and reserve Leigh Saffin both sinking three. “We had some good looks and I thought our kids competed well. We hung in there, hung in there and tried to find a way to maybe push it into overtime but we just couldn’t get the open looks to fall. Sometimes that’s the way it goes,” said Lofton. Kuxhausen tallied 15 of his game-high 22 points in the first half. Hitting a series of contested jumpers, the Scottsbluff native was 6 of 11 from the field and 7 of 8 from the line while also having five rebounds and four assists.
Among other Eagle starters, Johnson was strong inside and tallied 13 points and five rebounds with forward Jeremy Ruffin having a big second half to record a double double (10 points and 10 rebounds). Finally, guard Jaisean Jackson had all 10 of his points after the break. “They did a good job on Trey (Lansman). They face guarded him the second the ball was in-bounded. Once the ball was over half court a guy was in his chest,” said Lofton. “They limited his touches, even when he popped to the perimeter. In the second half, we found a way to get it to him and he made some plays.” Chadron held a 37-31 edge on the glass with UNK scoring 14 points off of 15 Eagle turnovers. The Lopers got 23 bench points, 21 coming from Danielson. He was 10 of 11 from the line and 4 of 8 (3 of 6 threes) from the floor in 27 minutes.
Kansas redshirt sophomore forward Morgan Soucie saw his first serious minutes as a Loper and starred, having 11 points, six rebounds, a block and assist. In the starting lineup for the first time, he made 5 of 7 shots over 31 minutes. “Morgan is the kind of basketball player you want on your team. He redshirted as a freshman and got in every once in a while last year. He’s never complained, goes as hard as he can go in practice, he’s getting better and his teammates love him,” said Lofton. “That was the highlight of the whole evening.” Finally, Lansman got hot late and finished with 16 points and five rebounds with Rohrich netting 11 points and three assists. The Lopers face two more former RMAC rivals this weekend in Colorado-Colorado Springs (2-1) on Friday and nationally-ranked Colorado School of Mines (2-0) on Saturday. Both games are in Colorado.