UNK Splits games in Kansas

UNK Splits games in Kansas
December 5th, 2021 | Peter Yazvac

Kearney, Neb. – Sophomore guard Connor Deffebaugh hit a running layup with 2.4 seconds left to help Washburn edge Nebraska-Kearney, 79-77, Saturday evening in Topeka.

A banged-up bunch of Ichabods improve to 4-4 (1-1 MIAA) and to 2-2 at home while the Lopers slip to 3-4 (0-2 MIAA). Dating back to the end of last season, this is the fourth time in the last 10 games a UNK opponent has sunk a game-winner with less than 30 seconds remaining. That group includes Lincoln, Missouri Western, Wayne State and now Washburn.

“It’s a tough one to take. I thought we played well enough to win it but hats off to them. Their kids stepped up and made a few more plays than ours did. That’s how you end up losing one like this,” said UNK head coach Kevin Lofton on the KRVN radio post-game show. “We played rock-solid for about 35 minutes. We had a stretch midway through the second half where we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. That made it hard on us and forced us to do something special to come back.”

Both teams shot exactly 50% from the field, UNK making 31 of 62 shots and the ‘Bods 30 of 60. Point guard David Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) capped a Loper 6-0 run when he sunk a corner three off an inbounds pass from freshman Sean Evans (Parker, Colo.). The contested shot came with 28 seconds left and after the Lopers had missed on two previous trips to tie or get within a point.

That was the sixth and final tie of the game with the 19th lead change coming after a WU timeout. Deffenbaugh took the inbounds pass, ran down the clock, got a screen on the left wing and drove into the lane where he banked in his team-best eighth bucket. A Loper desperation shot from 60 plus feet fell well short of the rim.

“We’re just trying to get one percent better every day. I thought we played better than we did against Emporia,” said Lofton. “Washburn is a little bit undermanned but they didn’t make any excuses and found a way.”

A very even statistical game saw the ‘Bods have an advantage in bench points, 27-7, and points in the paint, 44-34. Deffebaugh went for a team-best 19 on 8 of 10 shooting (2 of 3 threes) while also having five assists, three boards and two steals. Fellow starter Michael Keegan had 18 and eight with reserves Jeremy Harrell and Kevaughn Ellis combining for 21 points and six rebounds.

Simental scored a team-best 21 thanks to eight made shots (five threes). Next, Utah senior forward Darrian Nebeker had 20 points on 8 of 10 shooting in addition to seven rebounds and four assists. Finally, Alliance senior forward Austin Luger tallied 12 thanks to two triples with New Zealand freshman Sean Murphy being close to a double double (9 points & 8 rebounds) and limiting WU star Jalen Lewis to five points on 1 of 9 shooting.

“It’s just the nature of this league. Good teams rise to the occasion especially when they are at home. You have to bring something special to win on the road and we just couldn’t muster that up over these last three (road) games.”

UNK heads to Fort Hays State next Saturday. The Tigers were 5-0 heading into a Saturday evening game at Emporia State (6-1). 

Kearney, Neb. – Junior forward Shiloh McCool had a third straight double double, point guard Haley Simental tallied 14 and No. 20/21 Nebraska-Kearney used a late 6-0 run to edge Washburn, 49-43, Saturday afternoon in Topeka.

The Lopers (7-1) start the MIAA year 2-0 while the Ichabods fall to 1-6 (0-2) and 0-5 at home. UNK has also taken five of the last six against WU.

The ‘Bods came in struggling on offense, averaging 57 points on 38% field goal shooting (25% from behind the arc). Today they slowed the tempo down, overcame a 21-13 second quarter deficit and held a slim lead through much of the third quarter.

“We figured they would make some lineup changes and they did. They are a good team and just figuring things out a bit,” said UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey on the KRVN radio post-game show. “We found a way … fought through some fatigue and guarded. Possessions were low in this game.”

Still minus starting wing Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) and reserve point guard Sarah Schmitt (Swisher, Ia.) due to injury, UNK finally got control of things midway through the fourth. Junior post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn) rebounded her own miss and scored inside, erasing a 37-36 deficit with 5:37 remaining. The Lopers wouldn’t trail again as McCool scored after a ‘Bods shot clock violation and then tallied a layup after a media timeout. That made it 42-37 and UNK led by at least three points over the final three minutes.

“I thought we got some good minutes from our bench. We were a little tired but our team is mentally though,” said Eighmey.

McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) had six of her 11 points and six of her 11 rebounds in the second half. She is averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds over the last three games and is shooting 61% on the season. Next, Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) hit two of UNK’s three triples to reach double figures for a second straight game with four others between five and eight points. That group included Carlson who got close to a double double (eight points & seven boards).

Both teams made 17 field goals and shot below 39% with UNK being plus six on the glass and tallying eight second chance points.

“It’s not always about offense. Defense is a staple we try to have in this program,” said Eighmey.

WU saw eight different players score with none tallying more than nine. Guard Hunter Bentley had six of her team-best nine in the first half with reserve Nuria Barrientos at seven points and five boards.

The Lopers have just one game next week, a Saturday afternoon date with the rival and 2nd-ranked Fort Hays State Tigers.

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