KEARNEY – The Nebraska-Kearney men’s basketball team shot 67 percent in the second half and got three big individual performances to overwhelm Sterling (Kan.) College, 105-69, Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center.
This game was recently added to the schedule and replaced the Colorado School of Mines contest (Nov. 20) that was canceled due to COVID protocols withing the CSM program. This was the first-ever meeting between the Lopers (4-5) and NAIA Warriors. UNK sees a four-game losing streak come to an end while SC remains at 2-13 as this was an exhibition contest per NAIA rules.
UNK shot 53 percent (20 of 38) in the first half but was just 2 of 13 from behind the arc. Meanwhile, Sterling was 6 of 12 from downtown to hang around and whittle away at a few deficits. The Lopers did go on a 16-6 run to grab its first double digit lead of the night, 41-31, but the Warriors trailed by a 45-38 score at the break.
“Last night they hit nine threes against Friends University. We knew they could shoot it, told our guys and they found out the hard way,” said UNK head coach Kevin Lofton. “In the second half we did a much better job defensively.”
Kearney started the second half on a 15-2 run and never looked back. The Lopers made 24 of 36 shots second half shots including an 8 of 13 effort from the three-point line. Six different players sunk a triple over the final 20 minutes with no one making more than two.
“By playing tonight that gave us a full non-conference schedule. That was one of the main reasons to do it. We also needed to bounce back from the Fort Hays State loss (on Saturday) and try to get a little confidence and get going in the right direction which we were able to do,” said Lofton.
The 105 points is the most scored by a UNK team in almost six years (108, vs Midland; 12/18/16). This marks the fifth time this winter the Lopers have made over half its shots (59.5%) and the third time with a double digit made triple total (10). Finally, all 10 players who suited up scored at least three points.
Individually, Utah senior forward Darrian Nebeker went for 21 thanks to 9 of 10 field goal shooting and a 3 for 3 effort from the line. He also had five assists and three steals as UNK tallied 56 points in the paint. That paint effort included a career-high 22 points from Wahoo junior reserve forward Winston Cook. He went 11 of 17 from the floor to have his third double dight effort of the year. Finally, New Zealand junior wing Matt Brien was close to a triple double (15 points, 10 rebounds and six assists)
“It was nice to see Darrian step up and play at a level that he’s been playing at pretty consistently. Matt gave us a spark off the bench … hopefully moving forward he can continue to do that,” said Lofton. “In two of our last four games Winston has played at a really high-level. If he could consistently do that, along with Matt, that would really be good for us.”
Sterling was paced by Colby Baker’s 13 points and three treys. The Warriors cooled to 37% shooting (10 of 27) in the second half and were -24 in points off turnovers.
Due to winter graduation on Friday morning, the Lopers host Newman Friday night and Central Oklahoma Sunday afternoon.