Kearney, NE -- Four players scored in double figures and Nebraska-Kearney started the second half on an 8-0 run to roll past Central Oklahoma, 74-58, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
UNK (9-5, 2-3) improves to 8-1 at home while the sliding Bronchos fall to 11-4 (2-3). Less than a month ago UCO was ranked 22nd in the WBCA Division II Top 25 poll but has now dropped three of four.
The Lopers overcame the loss of leading scorer Kelsey Sanger (Crofton), who was called for two fouls in the first six minutes, to lead 35-29 at the break. Sanger sat out the last 14 minutes of the half but her teammates closed the second quarter on a 7-1 run to grab the lead for good.
Sanger made up for lost time by knocking down a corner three to start the second half. Freshman guard Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) followed with another triple and then stole the ball which led to a Sanger layup and a 43-29 lead. UCO called timeout but never got closer than 12 points the rest of the night.
"Our end of the first half was really good and then we came out to start the second half and a couple of shots went down. We also strung together three or four defensive stops and that's deflating for the other team," said Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey.
Hitting four of its five threes in the third quarter, UNK made 48% (28 of 59) of its shots, was plus eight on the glass and had a 46-28 advantage in points in the paint. Finally, 13 offensive caroms led to 14 second chance points.
"We played great team defense. Our team did a great job of executing the game plan and defended without fouling," said Eighmey. "Each week we get better and better at team defense. We're beginning to understand you guard the ball and not just one player."
A balanced attack was led by freshman post Brooke Carlson (Elkhorn H.S.) who had a team-high 17 points and nine rebounds. She was 7 of 14 from the field with five of her boards coming at the offensive end. Next, Sanger had 13 of her 15 points after the break with sophomore guard Adreon Bell (Independence, Mo.) supplying 10 points, five boards and for dimes.
Off the bench, freshman guard Aspen Jansa (Wahoo) knocked two threes to tally 12 with freshman forward Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) getting close to her third double double of the year (10 rebounds and eight points).
"Early in the game they were trying to pressure us in the full court to disrupt our offense. They are really good in transition and they were trying to create opportunities," said Eighmey. "Once we settled in and grasped what they were trying to do to us I thought our team got more comfortable. We were able to go down and execute and then we were able to get several stops in a row at the defensive end."
UCO was led by junior post Ireon Smith (14 points, 12 rebounds, two blocks and two steals). UCO shot just 36% (22 of 62) from the field, including a 4 of 21 effort from behind the arc.
UNK hosts the Northeastern State RiverHawks Saturday afternoon at two. NSU (3-11, 0-5) fell at No. 4 Fort Hays State tonight, 88-50.