KEARNEY – The Nebraska-Kearney men’s basketball team was plus 14 on the glass and used a big second half to down Mount Marty (S.D.) College, 79-69, Sunday afternoon at Kearney High School.
This game was originally set for Saturday, Dec. 1, but was postponed due to a winter storm. A venue conflict in the Health & Sports Center then pushed the Lopers (4-5) and Lancers (4-9) down the road to KHS today. UNK’s last “home” game in town came back in November 2007 at Kearney Catholic.
This was an exhibition contest for the NAIA Lancers from Yankton. On Saturday they hit a 25-footer as time expired to win at Concordia, 70-69. MMC carried that momentum over as they grabbed an early 13-6 lead and moved ahead by as many as nine points in the first half.
“We came out with some urgency after halftime. I thought we slept walked through the first 10 minutes. Our guys off the bench really saved us this afternoon,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton.
Having a size advantage to the tune of 42-14 points in the paint and 40-26 on the glass, UNK missed eight of its first nine shots. However, the Lopers eventually warmed up and shot 58% (19 of 33) in the second half to erase a 36-32 halftime deficit. UNK also took advantage of 12 Lancer turnovers and turned them into 23 points.
“We went to a three-quarters court press (in the second half) because they were running and executing their offense really well and giving us all kind of problems. We wanted to mix it up, get them out of rhythm and fortunately it did,” said Lofton.
Sophomore reserve forwards Weston Baker Magrath (Marshall, Minn.) and Austin Luger (Alliance) spearheaded a bench that produced 34 points. Both went for 14 points as they combined to go 13 of 22 from the field. This is a new career-high for Luger with Baker Magrath being a point shy of his career best offensive output.
“They played well in the first half and when they were on the court together they gave us some points in the paint which we needed because we just haven’t been shooting the ball that great,” Lofton said. “It’s easy to give Austin a good run when he makes plays. We know he can make threes but he finished on the inside today with either hand.”
A 4-0 run early in the second half tied things up at 43 and then a Baker Magrath shot in the lane put UNK ahead for good. A triple from Luger, one of his two in the game, made it 59-46 midway through the half and the Lopers never looked back.
Returning to his alma mater, Kanon Koster had a team-high 15 points on 7 of 11 (1 of 3 threes) shooting. His breakaway dunk tied things up at 43 and he also was one of six Lopers with an assist. Next, Aurora freshman Henry Penner got close to a double double (eight points and eight rebounds) with Iowa junior forward Kyle Juhl at eight rebounds, five points, four assists and a steal.
Mount Marty was paced by the duo of Jailen Billings and Colby Johnson. The pair combined for 44 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals.
UNK is now off until Tuesday, Dec. 18, when it faces the Hastings College Broncos.