Peter Yazvac, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
KEARNEY – Four players scored in double figures to help Nebraska-Kearney rally past Pittsburg State, 65-63, Saturday evening in Kansas.
The Lopers (8-14, 3-10) pick up its second road win of the year while the Gorillas (14-9, 7-7) drop a fifth straight game. Both teams were a bit short handed as Pitt was minus two starters, including guard Donovan Franklin (21.7 points per game), with UNK junior Kyle Juhl sidelined for most of the day with a shoulder ailment.
Pitt, also featuring senior guard Grant Lozoya (24.0 ppg), got out to a 31-17 lead 14 minutes into the action. UNK was just 1 of 13 from behind the three point line in the opening half but a zone defense and some work around the rim by sophomore post Weston Baker Magrath (Marshall, Minn.) made it just a seven-point hole, 36-29, by the break.
“I think our zone helped us get back in it. Once we got (the deficit) down by halftime, that kind of got us going and gave us a chance,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “Our zone really helped us all weekend. It got us back into it at Missouri Southern and it did the same thing today. We wanted to shortened the game … we need it to be in the 60’s and not the 70’s or 80’s.”
UNK tied things up at 51 with 8:59 left after a bucket by junior forward AJ Jackson (Bellevue West). However, Pitt went ahead by four a few minutes later. The final 3:42 saw several lead changes with a triple from the top of the key by freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney) finishing the scoring. The game-winning bucket came at the 1:45 mark.
Pitt missed its last five shots, four of which were taken by Lozoya. With nine tenths of a second left, he managed to get off a corner three that clanked off the side of the backboard. Guarded by Jackson, Lozoya was limited to 12 points on 6 of 18 shooting (0 of 6 threes). The Lopers final 1:45 included a missed shot and turnover. Luckily, UNK didn’t foul a lot and managed to take some time off the clock late with a couple of none-shooting fouls.
“We’re very proud of our guys. Anytime you get a split on the road you take it and run,” said Lofton. “Pitt got off to a really good start and it looked like we were running in quick sand for a while.”
Having a plus four rebounding margin, Kearney shot 42 percent from the field and was 9 of 11 at the line. Baker Magrath had 10 of his 12 points in the first half with Jackson tallying a team-best 17 on 7 of 10 shooting. He also went 3 of 3 at the line and has now scored 54 points in the last three games (18.0 avg.).
Next, Koster scored 13 as he hit two of UNK’s four treys with Alliance sophomore Austin Luger coming off the bench to provide 14 points, five rebounds (three offensive) and two steals in just 21 minutes. The 14 points ties his career-high point total.
“Austin made a lot of really big plays. When you get the opportunity you have to be ready to make the most of it and he definitely did that today,” said Lofton. “AJ did a good job guarding their best player and Weston did some good things early when we couldn’t find the basket. He came alive around the rim and gave us some points when we desperately needed them.”
Going 7 of 28 from behind the arc, Pitt was led by Sam Houston State (Texas) transfer Demetrius Levearity who had 23 points on nine made field goals (three triples).Lozoya, besides his point total, had eight assists and eight rebounds.
UNK hosts the Lincoln Blue Tigers Thursday night. LU (16-6, 9-4) lost to No. 1 Northwest Missouri State today, 75-57