Kearney, Neb. – Seniors Michaela Barry and McKenzie Brown played well down the stretch and sophomore point guard Jenna Gillespie hit five three pointers to help Nebraska-Kearney slip past Southwest Baptist, 76-67, Thursday night in Bolivar, Mo.
UNK (11-2, 3-2) wins a third straight contest and evens its road record to 2-2. Meanwhile, the Bearcats (8-5, 0-4) lose to the Lopers at home for a second straight season.
Both teams got off to slow starts as UNK had seven first quarter turnovers and SBU missed 13 of its first 15 shots. The Lopers, who finished with 19 turnovers, eventually warmed up, especially from behind the arc. Gillespie (Holdrege) hit all five of her threes over the first 25 minutes to help the Lopers lead 35-31 at the half and 46-35 midway through the third quarter.
An SBU zone slowed UNK’s prowess on the perimeter and the ‘Cats trailed by just three to start the fourth. Junior guard Morgan Henderson then tallied five in a row to erase a two-point deficit and give her team its first lead, 62-59, since early the second quarter. The lead grew by another point with just 3:24 left.
That’s when Barry (Battle Creek) and Brown (G.I. Northwest) took over. The veterans combined to score all 23 of UNK points over the final 10 minutes, many on runners to the rim. Down 65-61, Brown converted a three-point play and then Barry hit a long triple to give the Lopers the lead back. The 10-0 run finished with a Barry layup and two free throws from Brown.
“It’s the same old story for us; we find a way. Michaela had two fouls in the first half so Kelsey and Jenna step up offensively,” said Loper assistant Brandon Rohr. “Down the stretch, we had a good matchup with their four player against Michaela. We tried to slip some screens and put her in one-one-one situations. She and McKenzie just made plays. Your best players have to do that at the end of games.”
Brown tallied a game-high 24 points by making 6 of 14 (2 of 3) shots. Sinking a career-high 10 free throws, she also had 12 rebounds (11 defensive) to make this her third career double double. Barry also attempted 14 field goals, making seven of them (2 of 5 threes). Going 5 of 5 at the line, she grabbed six defensive rebounds and overcame some early foul trouble.
“Coach (Carrie) Eighmey does a great job preparing our kids; credit our girls for executing that game plan. It’s much harder once you get here than it is during practice,” said Rohr.
Scoring a career-best 15 points, Gillespie finished 5 of 6 from the arc with freshman guard Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) reaching double figures (11) for a second straight contest. She also had six rebounds, three assists and just one turnover in 37 minutes.
UNK made the MIAA’s leading scorer, senior guard Megan Rosenbohm, work hard for her 14 points. Coming in averaging 22 a night, she ended up making only 4 of 12 shots (0 of 3 threes).
“Kelsey and (reserve guard) Adreon Bell did a great job on Rosenbohm. It was the whole team too; executing assignments, being in gaps, helping where we need to help,” said Rohr. “We also had great ball screen coverage too. We really tried to make (Rosebohm) feel uncomfortable as she was coming off those screens and turn her more into of a passer.”
For a third straight game, the Lopers made at least half its shots (25 of 50) while sinking 16 of 18 freebies. UNK was plus four on the glass and SBU tallied only 12 points off those 19 miscues.
Kearney heads to 11th-ranked Central Missouri on Saturday afternoon. The Mules (10-1, 4-0) blasted Fort Hays State tonight, 71-51.
In the men’s game, The Southwest Baptist Bearcats sunk 38 free throws and got big games from senior Logan Hovey and junior Marlon Alicndor to beat Nebraska-Kearney, 92-87, Thursday night in Bolivar, Mo.
The Bearcats (7-5, 2-2) win a sixth home game and improve to 5-0 all-time vs. UNK (6-8, 2-3) in the Meyer Sports Center. Those setbacks have come by a combined 23 points. Due to a computer issue, official stats are available for only the first half.
A choppy and physical affair, the hotly contested game featured 83 free throws. The Lopers shot 53 percent (17 of 32) in the first half, making six threes along the way, but trailed 49-47. One of the top offensive teams in the MIAA, SBU sunk five of its own triples and was an impressive 16 of 17 at the line.
Kearney led briefly in the second half but SBU came back and was ahead 81-77 with 3:44 remaining. The Lopers misfired on a triple attempt and that led to a bucket by Hovey, who came in averaging a team-best 21 points per game.
In the final 2:45, UNK had a turnover and missed two free throws. Despite that, SBU led by just an 87-84 with 26 seconds left after senior Trey Lansman (Harlan, Ia.) made his last bucket of the night. Fittingly, the ‘Cats closed things out by making five of six free throws.
“We’ve not had a lot of success down here … that’s just the bottom line. Hats off to them. They made a ton of shots they had to make,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “We talked all week about the three point shot. They came averaging 10 made threes per game and they had five in the first half. They didn’t slow down in the second half. We also talked about their offensive rebounds. They average around 10 per game and had that total at the break.”
Unofficially, UNK was 28 of 37 at the line (76 percent) and SBU 38 of 46 (83 percent). Hovey had 14 of his team-high 23 points in the second half with Alcindor tallying 22. The 6-5 newcomer came averaging just over 12 a night.
“We had some good stretches and had every opportunity to win. But we missed free throws and missed our share of wide open shots. They were making those same shots on the other end,” said Lofton. “We’ve got to make plays down the stretch and we didn’t do that.”
For the Lopers, who ended the night with 10 made threes, Lansman went all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 29. Fellow senior starters Ty Danielson (19) and Lane Rohrich (18) also were in double figures with junior Isaiah McKay coming off the bench to score 14 thanks to four threes.
“There was no flow to the game. They had seven or eight straight possession where they shot free throws. But you have to adjust and when you go to the line you have to capitalize,” said Lofton. “I got really nervous as we were racking (fouls) up. Going into the game you have an idea about rotations and minutes but we had to ad lib a bit tonight.” UNK heads to Central Missouri Saturday afternoon. The Mules (11-2, 3-1) beat Fort Hays State, 81-66, tonight.