Peter Yazvac, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
KEARNEY – Senior forward Chandler Diekvoss had a big second half and Lindenwood got off to a scorching start to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 73-65, Saturday evening at the Health & Sports Center.
The Lions (13-14, 6-9) sweep the Hays/Kearney road swing and improve to 4-10 in games decided by 10 points or less. Meanwhile, the Lopers (9-15, 4-12) see a two-game winning streak snapped and take part in its 18th game decided by 10 points or less.
Headed to the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) next season, Lindenwood made its final trip to Kearney a memorable as they could do nothing run in the first 15 minutes. An aggressive 1-3-1 zone was giving the UNK offense fits while the Lions promptly sunk 16 of 22 shots (72.7 pct.) on the other end of the court. That included a 5 of 5 effort from behind the arc to make it 38-14 by the 4:51 mark.
“They did the same thing Thursday night at Fort Hays. We told our guys they start fast and are a lot better than their record indicates,” said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. “We didn’t do what we needed to do on defense and then we struggled trying to find looks against their zone. When we did, we couldn’t connect on them”
The Lopers closed the half on a 14-2 run to trail 40-28 at the intermission. The deficit remained between 12-16 points for the first part of the second half before back-to-back threes from junior lefty Diego Womack made it 63-43 with 8:47 to play. He entered today 4 of 20 (20.0 pct.) from downtown.
“I talked to their head coach (Lance Randall) in the shoot around and he said we have a team that’s real streaky. At Hays they were 3 of 20 from the three point line … but he said at times they can get it going. They had that kind of game today where they were all on,” said Lofton.
UNK had one last run to make, outscoring the Lions 21-6 over the next eight minutes to make things interesting. After senior guard Brad Newman missed the front end of a one-and-one, the Lopers had a chance to make it a one possession game with less than a minute to go. However, back-to-back threes from the top of the key didn’t drop. The second one was grabbed by the Lions and led to a fast break dunk by Womack to make it 71-64 with 15 seconds left.
Kearney finished the day just 5 of 27 (18.5 pct.) from the three point line. After 10 of 18 from three point land in in the first half of a loss at Missouri Southern last Thursday, the Lopers are 17 of 86 (19.7 pct.) from downtown over the last 100 minutes of game action.
“It looked like they were going to run us out of here by 30 at one point. With a minute or so left we have two threes that would’ve made it a two-point game. Our kids have shown determination all year long and have fought back in games to give themselves chances,” said Lofton.
Diekvoss, averaging 15.5 points per game, went for 19 in the second half today. He finished 10 of 11 from the field and 5 of 7 at the line to score a game-high 25 while also having six boards, four assists and two steals. Newman (13) and Womack (12) were the others Lions in double figures with reserve guard TJ Crockett hitting two threes to tally eight.
Lindenwood cooled off to 52.7 percent (29 of 55) field goal shooting that included a solid 7 of 13 effort from the three point line. LWU also was plus one on the glass and had just 10 turnovers.
Freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney) paced the Lopers for a second straight game as he had 18 of his team-high 24 points in the second half. He made 7 of 12 shots (2 of 7 threes) and 8 of 10 free throws over 37 minutes. Koster (407) now joins Brian Nielsen (499/1990-91) and Tom Kropp (408/1971-72) as the only freshman in UNK history to score 400 points.
Finally, Iowa senior Kyle Juhl (10 assists & nine points) and Bellevue junior AJ Jackson (10 rebounds & nine points) got close to double doubles with Lincoln sophomore Sam Morris having a season-best 12 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
UNK heads to Central Oklahoma and Northeastern State next week.