Lopers Close on 22-5 Run to Win Defensive Battle; Backes & Carlson Lead


    Elisa Backes is wide open in the corner in Joplin, MO to help UNK to a win on Feb. 7, 2019. (KHGI)

    The Nebraska-Kearney women's basketball team took advantage of an officials review and finished on a 22-5 run to rally past Missouri Southern State, 50-44, Thursday night in Joplin.

    The Lopers improve to 13-8 (6-6) while the Lions fall to 12-11 (4-9). UNK is now in a tie with Missouri Western State for seventh place in the MIAA.This was the first game Kearney was minus sophomore Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) who was injured in the second half in last Saturday's OT loss to No. 6 Fort Hays State. It's expected she'll return sometime this season.

    "Our kids were tough all night. We defended at a high level and I thought we hit some shots we maybe normally don't," said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey. "A win on the road in this league is very difficult and I think the thing that is really neat is that we did it without one of our better and most reliable players. We also got good news on her and she’ll be back."

    On a day where ice and cold weather canceled classes at Missouri Southern, the two teams waged a defensive battle throughout. The Lopers and Lions combined to go 37 of 108 (34%) from the field with 32 turnovers. UNK led 11-8 after one quarter but tallied just 17 point over the next two to fall behind by nine.

    Missouri Southern got some unexpected production from graduate transfer post Laure Assena (team-high 14 points) and reserve forward Morgan Brightwell (seven rebounds) to lead 37-28 entering the fourth. A bucket by senior Chelsey Henry, the MIAA's leading scorer at 17.3 points per game, made it 39-28 with 7:17 to play. UNK countered with a triple from freshman reserve Elisa Backes (Salina, Kan.) 14 seconds later to start the big run. On the play, freshman post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn) got tangled up with Assena and a double foul was assessed after a five minute delay.

    "Elisa hit that three to kind of get us going. That double foul helped us settle in we got a nice little break there. We talked about focusing on what we can control," said Eighmey. "We can control our communication, defense and rebounding. If we do that, good things usually happen."

    UNK scored nine of the next 11 points to tie things up at 40, the first time the Lopers weren't behind since early in the second quarter. While the Lions hit one of two free throws to go back on top with 3:17 left, Kearney closed on a 10-3 run that featured two layups by freshman forward Maegan Holt (Council Bluffs, Ia.). The second came with 10 seconds left and the shot clock running down. The game clinching bucket, a backdoor reverse layup, made it 48-44.

    The Lopers gave up 10 offensive rebounds in the first half and 17 turnovers led to 20 Lions points. However, UNK made 8 of 13 shots (2 of 3 threes) and went 4 of 4 at the line in the fourth quarter.

    Carlson (12) and Backes (11) combined for 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting. Backes went 3 of 6 from behind the arc with Carlson pulling down a team-best nine rebounds. Next, Holt had 10 points (2 of 3 threes) with freshman guard Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, SD) limiting Henry to nine points on 4 of 14 shooting. Going 35 minutes from the point guard spot, she had seven rebounds, four assists, two points, a block and steal.

    "Klaire did an outstanding job (on Henry). She has an ability to do whatever needs to be done and her mental toughness is off the charts. She's a winner and we have a lot of those kids," said Eighmey.

    Assena, a 6-1 Cameron native who previously was at Division I Lipscomb (Tenn.) reached her team-best point total in just 17 minutes. She went 6 of 10 from the field and had three offensive rebounds. Six other Lions scored with starter Destiny Cozart joining Henry with nine points.

    UNK heads to Pittsburg State on Saturday afternoon. The Gorillas (17-5, 9-4) were blasted by Fort Hays State tonight, 78-53. That marks their third straight home loss.

    Courtesy UNK Information

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