KEARNEY, Neb. - Graduate transfer guard Haley Simental had 22 points, six rebounds and four assists to help Nebraska-Kearney get past Missouri Southern State, 65-58, Monday night at the Health & Sports Center.
UNK shakes hands after their seven point win over Missouri Southern.
With the win the Lopers (13-2, 2-2) keep the Lions (3-9, 0-4) winless in league play. This starts a busy week for UNK is it heads to Rogers State (2-12, 0-5) on Thursday night and Northeastern State (4-8, 2-3) on Saturday afternoon.
To avenge a 2019 "Senior Day" loss to MSSU, UNK had strong first and fourth quarters and tallied 17 points off 14 Lions turnovers. Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) had a big second half to the tune of 15 points and three boards.
"Defensively we were a lot better today than we were Saturday. I thought our kids stepped up to the challenge of imposing themselves a little bit more, dictating a little bit more rather than reacting," UNK head coach Carrie Eighmey said. "We were good for about 38 minutes in that area."
UNK made 8 of its first 17 shots to get out to a 17-9 first quarter lead. However, the Lopers went cold over the next 20 minutes, making only seven shots. Getting big efforts from its top two scorers on the year, Chasidee Owens and Destiny Cozart, MSSU not only erased the deficit but went ahead 34-32 with 3:34 left in the third.
"Offensively it wasn't our best shooting or our best scoring day. I thought we left a lot of points off the board but we found a way," Eighmey said. "I liked our resolve and just the fact we had several players step up and contribute in different ways."
Three of the Lopers seven makes in the second and third quarters came in a row and helped open up a 41-37 lead they never relinquished. First a Simental steal lead to a three by freshman reserve guard Trinity Law (Rapid City, S.D.), a Law offensive carom led to a three by freshman reserve post Madison Dreckman (Le Mars, Ia.) and then Simental drained her third and final three of the night after another MSSU miscue.
"There's always a pivotal stretch in the game and that was definitely the stretch for us. To be able to go down and get three scores in a row and to turn them over three times … that stretched things just enough and gave us the cushion we needed," Eighmey said.
UNK then made 7 of 14 shots and 9 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter to lead by as many as 12 points. Cozart made things interesting with three triples down the stretch but she also was 6 of 17 from the field (5 of 14 threes) to reach her 17 points.
"Both Madison and Trinity gave us solid minutes and a boost off the bench," Eighmey said. "We were giving a little bit too much space at the end. Two wouldn't hurt us but threes were going to be able to beat us if they made too many of them."
Simental had an efficient evening, going 7 of 13 from the floor (3 of 5 threes) and 5 of 6 at the line in 35 minutes of work. She also had a plus 14 rating with all six of her boards coming on the defensive end. Next Crofton junior guard Kelsey Sanger had 11 points and four times with both Law (eight points & three boards) and Dreckman (six points & three assists) big off the bench. Finally South Dakota junior wing Klaire Kirsch had 10 boards, her fifth double digit tally of the winter.
Besides Cozart, Owens had 18 points and six rebounds to lead MSSU.