Lopers avenge one of two losses, beat Emporia State 76-71

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KEARNEY, Neb. - Sophomore forward Maegan Holt posted her first career double double and Nebraska-Kearney got hot in the fourth quarter to upset No. 16/18 Emporia State, 76-71, Saturday afternoon at the Health & Sports Center.

The Lopers huddle around head coach Carrie Eighmey while Haley Simental shoots free throws down the stretch.

Shooting 75% (9 of 12) in the fourth quarter helped the Lopers 17-2 (6-2) avenge a 70-49 setback to Emporia (12-4, 5-2) earlier this season. E-State was minus senior star Jessica Wayne, the reigning MIAA Defensive Player of the Year, who has now missed the last seven games due to injury.

It was a defensive battle until the fourth quarter and a game in which UNK led for nearly 36 minutes. Both teams erupted over the final 10 minutes, tallying 33 points apiece. Both squads went 7 of 9 (5 of 6 threes) from the field to start the fourth but Kearney held the lead thanks to being plus eight on the scoreboard in the first quarter and plus six in the third. E-State did take the second quarter, 14-5.

"The first time we were not ready for the way they play. They turned us over 31 times as we really struggled with their pressure. This time I thought we were much more composed," said Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey. "We knew what to expect and our strategy was a little bit better to. Overall we still had 15 turnovers but that's half of what we had on the road."

Ahead five to start the fourth, UNK moved ahead 54-47 on a three by South Dakota sophomore Klaire Kirsch. It was just a four-point Loper lead with 4:03 left before Kirsch hit her third and final triple of the day. However, E-State got a fast break trey from starter Morgan Laudan with 1:57 remaining to make it a 66-63 ball game.

Holt followed with her fifth and final bucket of the day and then the Hornets misfired on a three. UNK, a 63% free throw shooting coming in, promptly hit six straight freebies over the next 50 seconds to make it 74-69 and secure the 13th all-time win vs. the perennial Division II power.

"We didn't hit a ton of shots but we hit enough to attack a zone. You're going to have to hit a couple of outside shots against a zone and we were able to do that," Eighmey said.

Four starters and a reserve were in double figures for Kearney with Holt and Colorado point guard Haley Simental tallying 16 apiece. Simental was 4 of 8 from downtown with Holt 5 of 9 from the field and 6 of 10 at the line. She was a beat on the glass (11) with seven of her boards coming on the offensive end. As a team Kearney was plus 22 which led to 16 second chance points.

"Defensively we wanted to get stops so we could play live ball instead of dead ball. We did a really good job defensively in the first half. We gave up the lead late but if you hold someone to 25 points in a half you feel decent," Eighmey said.

Next Kirsch finished with 15 points, eight boards, five assists, and two steals with Elkhorn sophomore post Brooke Carlson providing 10 points, seven boards and two dimes in 20 minutes. Finally Kansas sophomore reserve Elisa Backes came in at 11 points, nine defensive caroms and three swats.

Emporia saw redshirt freshman guard Tre'Zure Jobe tally 16 of her game-high 23 points in the first half with starter Mollie Mounsey having all of her 11 points after the break.

UNK heads to Northwest Missouri State (8-8, 3-4) on Thursday night.