Peter Yazvac, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
WARRENSBURG, Mo. – The Nebraska-Kearney women’s basketball team shot an even 50 percent from the field, had 14 second chance points and got a late three from junior forward Elisa Backes to upset No. 21 Central Missouri, 68-56, Saturday afternoon in Warrensburg.
This was a battle of the last two unbeaten teams in the MIAA. UNK (8-0) is now in sole possession of first place in the MIAA; the Lopers also pick up its first-ever win at UCM (7-1), snap the Jennies 18-game home win streak and move to 2-8 all-time vs. UCM.
“This is a special group. They have some experience and the last two years we were down here it was decided in the fourth quarter. It was a six-point game at the half (today) but it felt like we had some self-inflicted wounds so it could’ve been more,” UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey said on the KRVN radio post-game show. “That third quarter (Lopers won 16-9) was a clinic the way we started. To come in here a get a win … it’s an unbelievable outcome for our program.”
The Lopers led for nearly the entire way thanks to its usual stingy defense, a season-high seven three pointers, its best shooting day of the year and 15 offensive rebounds. However, a young and talented UCM team went on a 11-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to make things more than interesting.
A top of the key triple from junior Maegan Holt made it 56-41 with 6:38 left. That marked UNK’s biggest lead of the game but UNK wouldn’t score for the next four minutes. During that time Central Missouri hit its own deep three, started to trap on defense, sunk six free throws and forced three turnovers.
Now up 56-52, the Lopers turned to Backes (Salina, Kan.) who hit a wide-open trey from the right wing at the 2:39 mark. While UCM countered with two more freebies, redshirt sophomore reserve forward Shiloh McCool followed with a layup and the Jennies didn’t get closer than seven the rest of the way.
“People don’t walk in here and get wins. We’re tough and we get after it. It wasn’t a perfect game by any means but we play hard and have a bunch of winners,” Eighmey said. “This team has a lot of special things left in them.”
Ten different Lopers scored led by Elkhorn junior post Brooke Carlson (15), Colorado point guard Haley Simental (10) and Backes (10). UNK was 25 of 50 from the field including a 7 of 16 effort from behind the arc. The Lopers were plus 12 in second chance points, got 25 bench points and held the Jennies to 38 percent (19 of 50) shooting. UCM also was out rebounded by 12 and committed 15 turnovers. They did score 20 off 20 Kearney miscues.
Carlson was 7 of 9 from the floor to reach her point total while also grabbing eight boards. Next, Simental went 5 of 5 at the line with Backes grabbing seven caroms and hitting two threes. Finally, McCool and fellow Iowa native Meg Burns scored five apiece with South Dakota junior Klaire Kirsch again in double figures (10) in board work.
“We have good shooters. The (perimeter) shooting was a big deal. We were out there confident and they were good shots and in rhythm,” Eighmey said. “Our team was really focused today. We laid the physicality today where a year or two years ago they had that advantage.”
UCM had two starters and a reserve in double figures including post Graycen Holden (13). She was 7 of 10 at the line; the Jennies finished 15 of 22 with nine of the makes coming in the final quarter.
UNK hosts Missouri Western State and Northwest Missouri State next weekend.