Slow first half dooms UNK at home
Senior guard Kendrick Thompson scored 25 points and Northeastern State sunk 11 three pointers to down Nebraska-Kearney, 75-64, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
NSU (17-9, 10-7) avenges an 83-79 OT loss to the Lopers (15-10, 9-7) earlier this year and also picks up its sixth road win. This marks UNK's second home defeat in 13 outings.
The RiverHawks came in averaging nine made threes per game and almost had that by halftime as they went 8 of 15. Thompson (4 of 8) and 6-7 redshirt freshman reserve Daniel Dotson (3 of 3) did the most damage as NSU built a 38-23 lead. UNK, meanwhile, went 1 of 15 from behind the arc and also saw the NSU bench score 21 first half points.
"You have to give it to Northeastern State. They came in focused and offensively they played extremely well in the first half. They hit eight threes, something we were trying to take away from them but they found ways to get open. Some of those were tough shots," UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said. Cedric Johnson
A full-court press helped whittled down the deficit to nine early in the second half but the 'Hawks stretched it to 62-40 with 7:40 remaining. However UNK still made things interesting as a few shots fell and the pressure forced several 'Hawk turnovers. Bellevue redshirt lefty Cedric Johnson made 1 of 2 free throws to make it a seven-point hole, 66-59, by the 3:36 mark. Thompson responded with one of his eight buckets and then UNK missed again from long range. They finished 6 of 33 from the three point line (16 of 27 from inside the arc).
"Defensively we have to better than we were in both halves tonight. Offensively we have to be able to hit the open shot when we get it from the three-point line. But we also can't forget we're an inside-out team and we did not attack the paint anywhere as much as we should have in the first half," Lofton said. "Second half they went zone, squeezed the paint and made it hard for us to get anything inside. And then outside we didn't respond very well."
Beginning his career at Division I Longwood (Va.), Thompson made 8 of 18 shots (4 of 10 threes) and went 5 of 10 at the line to reach his game-high point total. Seven others scored include double digit efforts by reserves Brad Davis (12) and Aaron Givens (10). NSU, making 24 of 48 field goals, got an astounding 41 points off its bench.
UNK had three in double figures in Kansas senior Morgan Soucie (20), Utah junior Jake Walker (15) and Bellevue senior AJ Jackson (12). Soucie and Jackson combined to go 12 of 21 from the floor while also grabbing 13 rebounds and drawing 11 fouls. Finally Texas senior lefty Chase Winchester had nine points, four boards, and three assists.
The Lopers host nationally-ranked Rogers State on Saturday afternoon. The Hillcats (21-5, 13-4) downed Fort Hays State tonight, 74-68, to move into second place in the MIAA.