UNK men’s basketball wins first game in home-opener

Local4 News at 10
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 11:00 PM CST
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KEARNEY, Neb. (Press Release) - Super senior forward Darrian Nebeker scored 24 points, one shy of his career-high, and Nebraska Kearney sunk 10 second half three pointers to fly by Manhattan Christian (Kan.) College, 89-54, Tuesday night at the Health & Sports Center.

This was the home opener for the Lopers (1-2) and an exhibition game for the Thunder (3-2) of the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA).

UNK made 27 of 61 three point shots (44%) last weekend in Duluth and matched the effort tonight by going 15 of 33. Eight different players had a make with sophomore wing Tom Connelly (Denver) at a team-best four.

”It’s just part what we do. We’re five out and we do a lot of cutting and screening and that’s the one shot (a three) that tends to present itself the most,” said UNK head coach Kevin Lofton. “We’re trying to find ways to get the other shots…the layups and free throws. We have to get better (in those areas) and I know we can make our free throws once we get there.”

Manhattan Christian, led by guard Ferdinand Handy Jr., hung around for the first 12 minutes before the Lopers closed the half on a 15-9 run. The stretch included seven straight points from Nebeker (West Jordan, Utah) to put the Blue & Gold up 38-23 at the break.

”We fed off Darrian tonight and we’ll probably feed off him most nights. By far he’s our best player right now,” said Lofton. “He’s expanded his game so now he can step out (on the perimeter). He shot 50% from out there last year but didn’t have a lot of attempts.”

Limiting the Thunder to 26% (10 of 39) shooting in the second half, UNK held at least a 22-point cushion over the last 11 minutes. The second half barrage from long distance was paced by Auburn redshirt freshman reserve Cam Binder (3 for 4), Colorado redshirt freshman reserve Skylar Wilson (2 for 3) and Connelly (2 for 4).

UNK ended the night at 55% from the field while also being plus five on the glass and tallying 12 points off 10 Manhattan turnovers. The Lopers also got 37 points off its bench.

Nebeker was 10 of 12 from the field (2 of 3 threes) and 2 of 2 at the line while also grabbing six defensive boards, having four dimes and two blocks. He tallied 25 points at Northeastern State in January. Next, Connelly (16 points, nine rebounds) got close to a double double with eight others between three-nine points.

That group included Iowa freshman guard Jamison Gruber who stuffed the box score; nine assists, eight points, three steals and three rebounds.

”We’re just trying to get better one possession at a time. In practice we take it one day at a time, one drill at a time, one rep at a time,” said Lofton. “When we get into a game, we break it down into 30 second intervals. We’re slowly making progress… we moved the ball a little bit better, we read our cuts a little bit better. Defensively, we were better getting out on the three.”

Handy Jr. (13 points, six rebounds) paced the Thunder.

UNK hosts NAIA Haskell Indian Nations (2-6) Thursday at 7 p.m.