Peter Yazvac, Assistant Athletic Director for Media Relations
WICHITA – Point guard Haley Simental scored a team-high 18 points and Nebraska-Kearney had a big third quarter to hold off Newman, 53-47, Thursday night in Wichita.
Playing a game for the first time in nearly two weeks, UNK improves to 3-0 while the Jets fall to 2-3. Kearney avenges a last second 66-65 lost at NU late last winter; that setback likely cost the team an NCAA Tournament bid.
“The first half we were where we wanted to be. We had 11 turnovers … we would’ve been plus six on possessions had we kept that (turnover) number down. You could tell we’ve been off for a while. A little bit winded but we showed some resilience at the end,” UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey said on the KRVN Radio post-game show.
Facing a Newman squad that likes to grind it out and flashes a tough zone defense, UNK led nearly the entire night and by as many as nine points. The Lopers outscored Newman by a 17-9 margin in the third to open up a nice lead but the Jets hung around and made a move late.
A layup from Iowa junior forward Maegan Holt made it 48-39 with 4:46 to play but UNK wouldn’t score again until there was 40 seconds left. In between Newman hit two jumpers and sunk two free throws to make it a one possession game.
True freshman reserve guard Meg Burns (Ankeny, Ia.) broke the Loper scoring drought by sinking the second of two free throws and then the Jets misfired on two shots. Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) and reserve junior guard Aspen Jansa (Wahoo) both made two freebies to complete UNK’s scoring.
“We got quality minutes from everybody and I think our bench gave us good production. We had a nice rotation that gave us boost in the third quarter,” Eighmeysaid. “We had only four turnovers in the second half and that was big. We played confidently and made plays when we needed to.”
Simental went 4 of 9 from behind the arc to reach her point total. That gives her 98 triples (68 at UNK & 30 at Denver) in her career. She also had three assists, two rebounds and a steal in a team-high 31 minutes. Next, South Dakota junior wing Klaire Kirsch had another all-around effort (team-best eight boards, five points, and four assists) with Elkhorn junior post Brooke Carlson at nine points and four boards. Finally, the UNK bench supplied 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Newman got 14 points from junior forward Faith Mason-Vestal and 10 points from junior reserve guard Makayla Hayes. UNK was plus eight on the glass but committed 15 turnovers and finished 6 of 21 from downtown. The Jets sunk 7 of 10 free throws and went 2 of 13 from the three-point line.
“Three games in and with limited scrimmages and practices we’re still figuring things out. But it’s great to be 3-0 to start the year,” Eighmey said.
UNK heads to Central Oklahoma (2-1) on Saturday afternoon. The Bronchos were off tonight as their battle with Fort Hays State was pushed to January 2.