Kearney, Neb. – Seniors Michaela Barry and McKenzie Brown both got close to double doubles and freshman Kelsey Sanger had another big effort as Nebraska-Kearney held off Washburn, 70-61, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.
The red hot Lopers (17-3, 9-3) are now 11-0 at home and 10-0 in games decided by 10 points or less. Now with its highest win total nine years, UNK is tied with Pittsburg State for second in the MIAA.
Washburn (14-7, 6-6) beat the Lopers handily, 57-39, back in December and had won 12 of the last 14 meetings in Kearney. However, UNK got out to a 21-14 first quarter lead and hung on for its second win over the ‘Bods as an MIAA member thanks to a dagger by Sanger (Crofton).
Trailing for the final 34 minutes and by as many as 15 points, Washburn held UNK to 4 of 14 (29%) shooting in the fourth quarter. Back-to-back threes from post Axelle Bernard and reserve Hunter Bentley made it just a five-point game, 64-59, with 3:55 to play. That was as close as WU had been since early in the contest.
UNK missed its next three shots but thankfully so did the ‘Bods. With 70 seconds left, Sanger hit a three from the left corner after taking a pass from Barry (Battle Creek). After WU missed a triple, graduate transfer Alyssa Frauendorfer (Humphrey) hit a three from the same spot as Sanger to make it 70-59.
“Kelsey is really efficient and she picks and chooses her times to score it. She doesn’t need 20 shots to score 17,” said Loper head coach Carrie Eighmey. “Defensively, she went to work on a player that’s in the top five in scoring in the conference.”
Replacing an injured Jenna Gillespie (Holdrege) in the starting lineup, Sanger went for 17 points, seven boards (five offensive) and five assists in 37 minutes. The 5-7 guard hit the game-winner last Thursday at Lindenwood and then had 14 points Saturday at Lincoln.
“She’s growing in her confidence. The more college games she plays, the more comfortable she gets,” said Eighmey. “She’s everywhere on the court.”
The Lopers ended the night plus 14 on the glass, 41-27, and that led to 12 second chance points. UNK also tallied 14 of its points off 12 Washburn turnovers.
Individually, Brown (18 points and nine rebounds) hit four first half threes to reach her team-high point total with Barry (13 points, nine rebounds and seven assists) leading in assists. Finally, starting post Jaymie Bernbeck(Garden City, Kan.) made all four shots she took to end with eight points and five rebounds.
Washburn got a combined 28 points from starting guards Reagan Phelan and Alexis McAfee.
UNK hosts perennial league power Emporia State Saturday afternoon. The Hornets (13-6, 8-4) suffered its worst defeat in 23 years, 90-63, Wednesday night at Fort Hays State.