Kearney, Neb. – The Nebraska-Kearney men’s basketball team shot 55 percent from the field and got 19 points from true freshman Sean Evans to rock South Dakota Mines, 81-65, Tuesday night in Rapid City.
This was the start of a five-game road trip for the Lopers (3-1) and the 250th career win for head coach Kevin Lofton. He’s in his seventh season as head coach (94 wins) after being co-head coach with Tom Kropp for a decade (156 wins).
“Really proud of our team for gaining their composure at halftime, coming out in the second half and playing a lot better. I think we took a step backwards in the first half but took two steps forward in the second half,” said Lofton on the KRVN Radio postgame show.
The Lopers hit 11 of 22 three pointers, saw four starters score in double figures and led nearly the entire way. UNK jumped out to a 13-4 lead but the Hardrockers (1-4) came back as they shot 59% from the field in the first half to trail 39-37 at halftime.
To beat a Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC) for a second straight game, the Lopers started the second half on a 12-4 run. The spurt featured back-to-back threes by Evans (Parker, Colo.) and paint shots from seniors Austin Luger (Alliance) and Darrian Nebeker (West Jordan, Utah).
“When our bigs play really well it gives us an added dimension and we’re pretty good. We struggled in the big position early on and it didn’t help that Darrian had two (first half) fouls. But he had a spurt there in the second half and you can see what he can bring to the table,” said Lofton. “That’s the guy that was one of the best players at his position over the last 10 games of the year (2020-21). “
The run made it 51-41 and Mines didn’t get closer than five the rest of the night. Kearney went 16 of 27 (59%) from the field over the final 20 minutes with the ‘Rockers struggling to the tune of a 10 for 26 effort (39%). The Lopers sunk seven of its triples in the first half but went a bit more inside in the second.
Evans came in having made 13 of his first 23 college shots and didn’t cool off tonight, going 7 of 12 (4 of 7 threes) over 36 minutes. He also had three rebounds, didn’t commit a turnover with three of his triples coming early in the second half.
“We felt like we got a good player in Sean and his (early season) minutes reflect that. Hopefully he can continue to get one percent better every night,” said Lofton. “That’s what we’re trying to do … just play a little bit better every night and see where we’re at by the end of the year.”
Next, Luger and Nebeker both got going in the second half with each tallying 16 points. Luger made 8 of 9 shots and grabbed a team-best eight boards (three offensive) with Nebeker fouling out late but making 7 of 11 shots and having five dimes. Finally, Colorado junior point guard David Simental had 11 of his 16 in the first half and went 4 of 7 from deep, as well has recording four assists and two steals.
A tall Rocker squad was plus six in the paint and had an 18-9 advantage in second chance points. They were led by reserve guard Alejandro Rama (16 points, four boards & three assists) and 6-6 guard Keagen Smith (12 points, three boards & steal steals).
UNK is now off until Monday night when they visit Wayne State. The Wildcats upset No. 13 Augustana tonight at home, 65-59, for its third straight win and to improve to 3-2 on the young season.