Peter Yazvac, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
KEARNEY – True freshmen Elisa Backes and Brooke Carlson scored 18 points apiece to help Nebraska-Kearney rally past Southwest Baptist, 74-70, Thursday night in Bolivar, Mo.
By erasing a deficit as big as 13 points, this young Loper team (8-4, 1-2) picks up its first road win of 2018-19 and drops SBU (4-8, 1-2) to 4-4 on its home court.
“Before the game we talked about when adversity hits to just be the same people and keep fighting. We’re really proud of our how our group battled,” said Loper assistant coach Devin Eighmey. “We had a rugged start but found a way in the end.”
One of the top scoring teams in the MIAA, the Bearcats showed why early on as they erupted for 26 points in the first quarter. SBU sunk 11 of its first 19 shots, including a 4 of 5 effort from behind the arc, to build leads of 26-15 and 30-17.
UNK slowed things down and whittled the deficit to five, 49-44, by halftime. The Lopers limited the ‘Cats to 4 of 16 shooting (25.0 pct.) in the second quarter while going 5 of 6 at the line.
However, SBU countered with a strong start to the third quarter, going up 49-38 after Laura Vierkant made two free throws for her only points of the game. UNK closed on a 6-0 run that featured four points from Carlson (Elkhorn H.S.) and a layup by Wahoo freshman guard Aspen Jansa.
The Lopers finally regained the lead, 50-49, early in the fourth quarter after a put back bucket by Backes (Salina, Kan.). The teams then traded blows, UNK going up by four and then SBU moving ahead by three. Finally, Kearney outscored the ‘Cats 7-5 in the final 56 seconds with Backes tallying six and blocking a late three point attempt.
The UNK bench outscored the SBU reserves by a whopping 47-12 margin. The teams combined for 33 offensive rebounds with the Lopers managing 20 second chance points. A tightly called game, UNK was a solid 26 of 34 at the line. SBU, meanwhile, attempted just 15 freebies.
“We talked at halftime about how great our bench was. They kept us in it and even the players not in the game were talking, being positive and supporting each other,” Eighmey said.
Facing All-MIAA post Caylee Richardson, Carlson reached her season-high point total by making 6 of 8 shots and 6 of 7 free throws. Getting Richardson into foul trouble, Carlson also had a team-high seven rebounds.
“Brooke continues to get better each day in practice. She went to what she knows in her training so it was really cool to see her have a big game,” Eighemy said.
Next, Backes tied her season-high point total thanks to seven made free throws and five made field goals (one three). Her point total came in just 17 minutes and she has now made 12 of her last 17 shots to be at a team-high 63 percent on the season. Also for UNK, Crofton starting guard Kelsey Sanger had 11 points, five boards and four steals in a team-best 38 minutes.
SBU saw four of its starters score in double figures led by guard RayShee Smith (16) and forward Morgan Henderson (16). And after that 4 of 5 three point start, the ‘Cats made just 3 of its next 22 trey attempts.
UNK plays defending national champion Central Missouri Saturday afternoon. The 15th-ranked Jennies fell tonight at home to fifth-ranked Fort Hays State, 56-46.