Kearney, Neb. – Point guard Haley Simental and forward Elisa Backes tallied 16 points apiece and post Brooke Carlson recorded a double double to help No. 16/15 Nebraska-Kearney down No. 22/RV Missouri Western State, 60-48, Thursday night in St. Joseph, Mo.
The Lopers (13-2, 8-1) beat the Griffons (12-2, 6-2) for a fifth straight time and also hands Mo West its second home loss of the year.
UNK shut down the MIAA’s top offense as the Griffs came in averaging 80.2 points per game. They had its second lowest output of the winter as they finished 17 of 53 (32%) from the field which included a 1 of 11 effort from behind the arc. UNK also was plus four on the glass; MWSU came in with a plus nine rebounding margin.
Leading for nearly 27 minutes, the Lopers were up 29-27 early in the second half when it went on a 5-0 mini-run. A Carlson (Elkhorn) steal led to a layup from reserve point guard Sarah Schmitt (Swisher, Ia.) to cap things. While the Griffs got it down to a two-point deficit a few minutes later, the Loper advantage was eight, 44-36, by the end of the third. A Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) offensive rebound led to a layup by reserve guard Meg Burns (Ankeny, Ia.) to end the quarter.
UNK held at least a four-point cushion in the fourth with its first double digit lead coming on a Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) three at the 3:35 mark. That made it 56-44 with the Lopers ending the game 22 of 52 (42%) from the field which included six triples.
Simental reached her season-high point total by making six field goals and three free throws. Drawing eight fouls, she also had four rebounds, three steals and two assists. Backes (Salina, Kan.), part of a bench mob that outscored the Griff reserves by a 27-7 margin, reached her 16 points thanks to a 4 of 8 effort from behind the arc. She had eight points in each half and swatted two shots. Carlson also had two blocks and also supplied 12 points and 11 boards (10 defensive). This marks her first double double of 2021-22.
MWSU was paced by forward Connie Clark who came in almost averaging a double double on the year. She had a game-high 23 points, nine rebounds and two steals. She went 8 of 18 from the field; the rest of the Griffs were a combined 9 of 35.
The Lopers heads to Northwest Missouri on Saturday. The Bearcats (11-3, 6-2) fell in the last minute to No. 2 Fort Hays State on Wednesday night, 63-60.
Kearney, Neb. – Senior forward Darrian Nebeker hit a 17-footer from the left wing with four seconds left to help Nebraska-Kearney edge Missouri Western State, 81-79, Thursday night in St. Joseph.
The Lopers (6-9, 2-7) stop a four-game losing streak while the Griffons (8-9, 4-5) drop a fifth straight. These two teams will close out the regular season on February 25th at the Health & Sports Center.
“We were tired of losing and needed that desperately,” said UNK head coach Kevin Lofton on the KRVN radio post-game radio show. “The guys just found a way. Sometimes when a team (Mo West) has some key players out, the pressure is off them. It frees them just to play and that’s what they started doing. We got tight a little but we found our way out of it.”
Mo West was minus two of its top three scorers and promptly fell behind 30-7 midway through the first half. The Lopers shot 63% (15 of 24) over the first 20 minutes to get out to that lead and be up 41-35 at the break. Making 56% (18 of 32) of it second half shots, the Griffons not only whittled down the deficit but took a 77-76 lead after a Reese Glover floating jumper with 1:02 remaining. UNK had led by as many as 13 in the second half.
The Lopers responded with a Matt Brien (New Zealand) triple from the right wing with 42 seconds left but forward JaRon Thames attacked the paint and converted a layup 17 seconds later. He was fouled but missed the free throw. The Griffs grabbed the rebound and missed a five-footer with Nebeker (West Jordan, Utah) grabbing the loose ball.
After a timeout, point guard David Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) got the ball at the top of the key and was running down the clock. He found Nebeker on the wing who promptly knocked down his seventh shot. He finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds (10 defensive), five assists and two steals over 38 minutes. The Griffs had a chance to tie or win the game and, after a timeout, Thames tried to hit another runner in the lane but this time the ball found clanked off the rim.
Freshman Sean Evans (Parker, Colo.) had a game-high 22 points on 9 of 12 (3 of 6 3’s) shooting). He had 13 in the first half and also had three dimes and two thefts. Next, Alliance senior Austin Luger and Simental had 11 apiece with Brien and Parker Badding (Carroll, Ia.) combining for 15 points off the bench. The Lopers finished the night at 63.5 % (33 of 52), one of the top shooting nights in recent memory.
“Sean made some good offensive plays tonight. He hit some big threes, had a big downhill drive late in the second half that went for us,” said Lofton. “I can’t say enough about Darrian stepping up and hitting that last shot. We were then able to get something to go right on that last defensive possession.”
MWSU was plus seven on the glass and got big efforts from reserves Taye Fields (15 points & 15 rebounds) and Zion Swader (20 points) and Thames (17 points). UNK heads to two-time defending national champion Northwest Missouri State on Saturday.