Kearney, Neb. – Senior reserve guard Cameron Wiggins made eight three pointers and Washburn was plus 14 on the glass to beat Nebraska-Kearney, 75-65, in an MIAA Tournament quarterfinal game Friday afternoon in Kansas City, Mo.
The third-seeded Ichabods (21-8) keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive and will face seventh-seed Fort Hays State Friday night in one semifinal game. The Tigers upset second-seeded Missouri Southern State, 86-86 in OT, in the second contest of the day.
Meanwhile, UNK ends the year at 16-14. This was the final game for seniors Ty Danielson (York), Trey Lansman (Harlan, Ia.) and Lane Rohrich (Pierce). Each was a four-year Loper who played in at least 115 games.
In a year with injuries and sickness, it was only fitting that that issue cropped up once more. Starting forward AJ Jackson (Bellevue West) couldn’t go today due to illness with junior guard Isaiah McKay (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) battling through an injured wheel to score eight in 24 minutes.
“I thought our kids competed really hard which is what they’ve done all year long. There was no quit in these guys,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “We were sitting at 6 and 10 coming back from Hays and it didn’t look good. Our guys kept battling, hung together and felt like we could come down here and make something happen.”
Losing to WU for a third time this year, UNK tried to defend a big and athletic Ichabod squad by doubling in the post. However, senior All-American candidate Brady Skeens and others found open teammates on the wings and in the corners to the tune of seven first half threes. That hot shooting erased an early 15-10 Loper lead as WU zoomed ahead 37-24. Rohrich did hit a 40-footer to close out the half and cap a 5-0 UNK run.
Averaging 8.5 points per game, Wiggins came in ranked second on WU in threes made (47) and finished 8 of 11 from behind the arc. Playing 27 minutes, he scored a game-high 27 with 18 of that coming in the second half.
“You pick your poison with them. Skeens had a heck of a game at our place and we wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. The only way we could do that was to double,” said Lofton. “Wiggins was a thorn in our side today but anytime you put two on the ball you are in a rotation situation. We picked our poison with that and hats off to them for doing what you have to when other teams double.”
The Lopers, making 6 of 10 threes after the break, hung around most of the afternoon and twice cut the deficit to five points early in the second half. However, the ‘Bods fought off the small runs and went ahead 59-43 with 8:51 to play after a triple by Wiggins. UNK didn’t get closer than eight points the rest of the day.
“That’s the whole difference in their program from this year to last year. It’s the defense, no question. It’s the exact same group from last year but they play way better defense and that’s a credit to their head coach,” said Lofton. “They took us out of anything we wanted to do early and that really set the tone for the first half. We had some good things happen in the second half to hang around.”
Besides Wiggins heroics, Skeens (10 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and three blocks) had a typical big effort with 2018 honorable mention All-MIAA guard Javion Blake at 11 points and three steals. Washburn out rebounded UNK 37-23, shot 53.2 percent (25 of 47) from the field and got 40 points off its bench.
The Lopers did tally 16 points of 16 WU turnovers and finished 10 of 24 from the three point line. Not surprisingly, all three seniors scored in double figures, Lansman with 18, Rohrich at 14 and Danielson tallying 10. Lansman had team-highs in rebounds (seven) and assists (three) with freshman forward Austin Luger (Alliance) coming off the bench to hit two second half threes.
“The seniors mean the world to me. You look at what they’ve done since they stepped into the program and that includes saving and turning this season around for us. I can’t say enough good things about them and they’ll be sorely missed.”
2018 Seniors in the Loper Record Books
Lansman (121 games)
4th in made free throws (491)
5th in scoring (2,042)
6th in free throw attempts (615)
6th in field goal attempts (1,413)
6th in free throw percentage/400 plus attempts (79.8)
7th in made field goals (693)
8th in threes attempted (435)
9th in threes made (165)
9th in scoring average (16.9)
Danielson (119 games)
3rd in threes made (196)
3rd in threes attempted (509)
4th in free throw percentage/400 plus attempts (82.7)
23rd in scoring (1,301)
Rohrich (117 games)
5th in free throw percentage/175-299 attempts (81.0)