KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Sophomores Brooke Carlson and Klaire Kirsch combined for 38 points to help No. 31/26 Nebraska-Kearney pull away from Northeastern State, 82-64, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
UNK (24-3, 13-3) is now in sole possession of second place in the league standings as Newman stunned Emporia State (19-6, 12-4) tonight in Wichita, 68-67. The Lopers are at NU (10-16, 5-12) next Thursday.
To avoid a similar fate against NSU (5-19, 3-14), the Lopers saw Carlson (Elkhorn) and Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) both fall a point short of tying their career-highs. UNK also was plus nine on the glass in the second half and held the RiverHawks to 37% shooting (24 of 65).
"They are a team that always plays hard and their shooters shot the ball well today. That makes you a little bit concerned," UNK head coach Carrie Eighmey said. "We made some adjustments defensively in the second half and our players did a good job of taking away the easy stuff that I thought we gave up early." Klaire Kirsch
While NSU trailed for all but 16 seconds they hung around thanks to 12 offensive rebounds and big nights from guards Celina Hayes and Shae Sanchez. Hayes went for 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists with Sanchez tallying 17 points, seven boards and two assists. However NSU tallied only 11 fourth quarter points and surrendered 50 points in the paint.
"Offensively we found ways to manufacture points. We didn't necessarily shoot the ball great from the three-point line but we got to the foul line and in the second half we made those free throws," Eighemy said. "It was a game where had to get enough stops and then get paint touches because they started today with a fairly small lineup."
A 5-0 spurt gave UNK its first double digit lead of the night, 56-46, late in the third quarter. A corner three by freshman reserve guard Trinity Law (Brandon, S.D.) finished the mini-run and NSU didn't get closer than seven points the rest of the way.
The Lopers went 8 of 8 at the line in the fourth and stretched the lead to 70-57 after a steal and layup by Kirsch. She was limited to just three first half minutes due to foul trouble but made up for lost time by scoring 13 of her 17 points after the break.
"Klaire gave us good energy in the second half. She made a couple plays defensively where she was able to get steals and turn them into easy buckets," Eighmey said. "She did a good job of attacking the rim and gave us a nice boost."
In double digits for a ninth straight time Carlson scored a team-best 21 points thanks to 8 of 11 field goal shooting. Also sinking five freebies she grabbed eight boards and had two assists. Next Kirsch finished 7 of 13 from the floor while also grabbing eight rebounds with Iowa sophomore wing Maegan Holt (10) the other Loper in double figures.
Hayes reached her big point total by making 11 of 21 shots (4 of 12 threes) with Sanchez 5 of 15 from the field. Starting post Zaria Collins (10) was the other NSU player to reach double digits.
UNK hosts Rogers State (4-22, 2-15) Saturday afternoon. The Hillcats have lost three in a row after a 100-59 setback at Fort Hays State tonight.