June 6, 2023

Dawson County Journal

Dawson County, Nebraska

Loper Winning Streak Ends in Missouri

Lopers Late Rally Falls Short at Mo West

Kearney, Neb. – The Missouri Western State Griffons used a balanced offensive attack and a zone defense to hold off No. 22/24 Nebraska Kearney, 68-65, Thursday night in St. Joseph.

MWSU improves to 7-3 (2-1) while the Lopers (9-2, 2-1) see an eight-game win streak to come an end. The Griffs ended UNK’s season this past March in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, 72-59.  

Early in the second half, super senior wing Klaire Kirsch (Rapid City, SD) grabbed a missed Griffons shot, making that her 1,000-career rebound. She joins men’s players Paul Collison (’60), Tom Kropp (’75) and Dusty Jura (’07) as the only Lopers to reach four figures in boards.

To again be a thorn in the Blue & Gold’s side, Mo West had a season-high point total against the staunch Loper defense while using an aggressive zone defense most of the way. The Griffs led for the final 35 minutes but UNK had three chances in the final 17 seconds to tie or take the lead. However, those possessions ended with two missed threes and a turnover. The Lopers finished 8 of 29 from behind the arc and 15 of 25 from two-point land.

“We had moments where I thought we were good and a lot of moments where we were not so good,” said UNK assistant coach Devin Eighmey on the KRVN Radio post-game show. “They stayed in that zone forever and just flew around. All we need to do was flood but we got a little sped up and they extended us a little bit.”

Six-foot junior wing Jordan Cunningham had 10 of her team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter with five-four sophomore reserve guard Alyssa Bonilla having five points and drawing two fouls down the stretch. The Lopers used a 7-0 run at the end of the third to cut into a 44-35 deficit, only to see Cunningham go on a 5-0 run to start the fourth.

“We still had a chance in the fourth and needed a stop but couldn’t get one. We’d overplay something and get really antsy for whatever reason,” said Eighmey. “We battled and the effort was there. We were still in it at the end.”

UNK was down 64-57 at the 3:12 mark but South Dakota junior guard Trinity Law hit two free throws, Kansas super senior forward Elisa Backes knocked down a paint jumper and then stole the ball, leading to a Law layup. That made it 64-63 with 1:08 left and MWSU called timeout.

While the Lopers got a stop on the next possession and then used one of its own timeouts, a subsequent three from the right wing hit iron. MWSU grabbed the rebound and hit one of two subsequent freebies. UNK called timeout to advance the ball to halfcourt but an entry pass into the right corner was stolen.

“They were switching defenses (at the end) and we were trying to keep it pretty simple. We liked our look on the first possession and probably should’ve stayed with that set,” said Eighmey. “Everyone wants to look at the end but there were so many moments during the game that just weren’t good.”

Amazingly, the Blue & Gold had one more chance after Iowa point guard Sarah Schmitt made two freebies and MWSU again went 1 of 2 at the line. Kirsch rebounded the miss and threw a pass that went deflected out-of-bounds. A video review put the ball near mid-court with less than a second left; a desperation three on the right wing was blocked by Mo West junior Connie Clarke.

Law scored a season-high 20 thanks to 6 of 15 (4 of 10 threes) shooting. She also went 4 of 4 at the line, had two defensive boards and two assists. Next, Backes tallied 11 of her 17 in the fourth with Schmitt hitting two triples to score 10. She also had six dimes with Backes at four. Finally, Kirsch was at nine points, six boards, two assists and two steals.

“I thought some of them (29 three-point attempts) were good looks,” said Eighmey. “They played extremely hard tonight. Cunningham was good, Budgetts hit a couple
of shots.”

MWSU was plus 18 in bench points, plus 16 in fast break points and had a 32-20 advantage in paint points. Nine different players scored with Cunningham an efficient 4 of 7 from the field and 5 of 6 at the line. Veteran wing Brionna Budgetts (13) and freshman reserve Cleao Murray (10) were the others in double figures. In addition to her point total, Cunningham had a team-best eight rebounds and drew five fouls.

UNK hosts MWSU on Saturday, Jan. 28. They visit Northwest Missouri this Saturday; the Bearcats were off tonight as they host Fort Hays State on Sunday afternoon due to Winter Commencement.

Source: Regional Sports