Kearney, NE -- The Central Oklahoma Bronchos shot 52 percent from the field and used 9-0 run midway through the second half to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 77-70, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
UCO (8-6, 1-4) picks up its first MIAA while UNK (5-9, 0-5) has now lost five league games by a combined 20 points.
The Bronchos, led by junior guard Ashford Golden (19 points & nine rebounds) and senior forward Adarius Avery (15 points, nine rebounds & six assists), never trailed but also couldn't shake the Lopers until the very end. UNK hung around thanks to 11 made three pointers and a big night from sophomore reserve Austin Luger (Alliance) but that run, as well as 18 turnovers, proved to beat the difference.
"They are a talented team that was knocking down shots and playing together tonight. We try and keep our turnovers to 10 or less … it's going to be hard to beat anybody when you have 18," said Loper head coach Kevin Lofton. "Every single time we got close they had a response and it was usually number three or number ten."
A three from freshman Kanon Koster (Kearney H.S.) made it 59-58 with 10:28 to play. Golden missed a jumper soon after but then Koster was called for a charge, his fourth foul of the night. With Koster on the bench the 'Chos scored the next nine points getting a three from reserve Jaylan Williams and turning three Loper turnovers in to seven points.
"Kanon getting into foul trouble and AJ (Jackson) getting injured really hurt us. Kanon on offense and AJ at the defensive end," said Lofton. "Kanon had a pretty good first half but couldn't really get into a rhythm in the second half. He made plays when he could but it's a learning experience. You have to defend without fouling.”
The Lopers had one more run in them, getting a triple from junior forward Kyle Juhl (Harlan, Ia.) to make it 74-70 at the 3:18 mark. Junior Morgan Soucie (Oswatomie, Kan.) followed with a block but Luger and freshman Parker Badding (Carroll, Ia.) saw shots rim out on UNK's next two possessions. UCO closed things out with a bucket by Avery and a free throw.
A member of Loyola's 2018 Final Four team, Avery was 7 of 11 from the field with all nine of his boards coming at the defensive end. Golden made 8 of 15 shots (3 of 5 threes) and grabbed seven defensive caroms with fellow starter Marquis Johnson at 12 points and two assists.
Luger tied his career-high of 14 points by making 6 of 14 shots. In 28 minutes off the bench he also had seven rebounds, one assist and a steal. Next, Koster had team-highs in points (19) and dimes (seven) as well as seven boards with Juhl reaching double digits for a fourth straight game. He hit four threes, as did Koster, to score 18. Finally, Jackson (Bellevue West) did return after taking a hard foul trying to defend a Broncho charging baseline. He managed nine points, seven rebounds and four steals in 19 minutes.
UNK hosts the Northeastern State RiverHawks (6-8, 0-5) Saturday at four. NSU lost tonight at Fort Hays State, 69-65.