Late free throws doom Lopers versus Hornets

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Kearney, NE -- Reserve sophomore forward Justin Washington had a double double and Emporia State made five free throws in the final 33 seconds to edge Nebraska-Kearney, 60-56, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.

UNK fall to 3-5 (0-2) while this was the Hornets (5-2, 1-0) league opener. They travel to Fort Hays State on Saturday.

In game where both squads shot under 42% from the field, E-State led for 25 minutes including 55-49 with 2:38 to play. Loper freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney H.S.) hit back-to-back threes, the second coming from the far left wing, to knot things up at the 1:21 mark.

UNK was poised to take the lead back after a steal but Emporia turned the tables, getting a steal of its own that led to a foul and two free throws. Senior Kooper Glick, who had the theft, went 1 of 2 at the line to give his team a 56-55 lead with just 33 seconds remaining.

After a Loper timeout, Koster drove baseline but his shot didn't fall. He managed to get an offensive tap but that also didn't go down and Emporia grabbed the defensive rebound. This time the Hornets made both freebies and then fouled UNK with six seconds remaining, preventing UNK from taking a potential game tying three. ​ESU then sunk two more freebies to close out the scoringf

"I thought we competed but the ball just didn't go through the basket. Defensively we got down and scraped and gave ourselves some opportunities. We had some looks but we couldn't capitalize on them, both early in the game and also down the stretch," said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton.

A 6-6, 225 pounder, Washington had 15 points and 11 rebounds (four offensive) in 31 minutes. Emporia got 28 bench points overall and outscored UNK 34-24 in the paint. The Lopers bombed away all night, going 7 of 30 from behind the arc. The 30 attempts are 10 shy of tying the school-record.

"It's kinda of tough right now … we don't have a Trey Lansman to throw it down there and really establish himself as a dominant post player," said Lofton. "We're have to rely on spreading the floor, setting ball screens and trying to get guys going downhill into the paint. If they get all the way there great, but if not you have to kick it and move it until you find an open guy. At Hays, we shot the ball well (12 of 26 threes). If we shoot half as well tonight we win the game."

Also for E-State, Omaha senior lefty guard Malik Hluchoweckyj had 11 points, seven assists and three steals with Glick at 11 points, six defensive caroms and two steals.

Koster had a season-high 25 points thanks to 11 of 21 (3 of 6 threes) shooting. Over 35 minutes he also had three of UNK's five steals and two assists. Next, junior guard Chase Winchester (DeSoto, Texas) had another big effort off the bench, recording a double (11 points, 10 rebounds & six assists). Finally, junior post AJ Jackson (Bellevue West) grabbed nine rebounds, blocked four shots and tallied six points.

"I'll give it to our guys. They were on the floor, taking charges, getting deflections and making hustle plays. They scraped but it just didn't go our way tonight," said Lofton.

UNK hosts the Mount Marty (S.D.) College Lancers Sunday at Kearney High School. Tip time is 2 p.m. for a game that was originally supposed to be played on December 1 but was postponed due to weather.