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Loper women bounce back from Thursday loss

Kearney, Neb. – Junior post Brooke Carlson had a season-high 20 points, junior wing Klaire Kirsch had a double and junior reserve Elisa Backes tallied 16 to help No. 12/14 Nebraska-Kearney pull away from Lincoln, 79-57, Saturday at the Health & Sports Center.

This was UNK's last regular season home game; they are in-line to host an MIAA Tournament first round game on Wednesday, March 3. The regular season league concludes next Saturday. Prior to tip-off, seniors Kelsey Sanger (Crofton) and Shelby Megyeri (Green Mountain Falls, Colo.) were honored. Graduate point guard Haley Simental (Pueblo West, Colo.) is the other veteran on the roster but is returning next season.

The Lopers (17-3) never trailed the Blue Tigers (1-19) but LU fought until the end. Kirsch (Rapid City, S.D.) hit a half court three pointer to beat the first quarter buzzer to give UNK a 21-7 lead. The advantage didn't get bigger than 18 points with a 10-0 Blue Tiger run to end the third making it a 54-46 score. However, Kearney tallied 10 of the first 11 points in the fourth quarter to salt things away.

"Sometimes as a coach you worry about games like this. But our team has enough experience and has learned that everyone you play in the MIAA is good and capable of beating you if you're not ready," UNK head coach Carrie Eighmey said. "These games can be tricky if you don't have a reason bigger than yourself to play. Today we had two seniors that we honored and the team was locked in for them."

UNK shot 53 percent (29 of 55) from the field, made 18 free throws and had a 48-28 advantage in paint points. A much taller team, the Lopers saw Carlson (Elkhorn) go 7 of 12 from the field, Backes (Salina, Kan.) make 6 of 13 shots and Kirsch grab 12 rebounds (11 defensive). LU also had both of its top post players get into foul trouble.

"Lincoln is a tough team to pull away from because they don't quit. They keep playing and attacking the rim. They are explosive and quick and always a threat to get to the bucket," Eighmey said. "Sometimes you have to bring help to that threat and then you give some offensive rebounds."

Carlson finished two points shy of tying her career-high while Kirsch records her second straight and third double double of the season. Next, Backes reaches double digits for the sixth time in the last seven games with Iowa sophomore reserve forward Shiloh McCool at nine points and six rebounds (three offensive).

"We felt like we had an advantage in the paint. Several of our players did a good job of drawing fouls and attacking the paint," Eighmey said.

Lincoln got 19 points from senior guard Niyah Jackson with freshman guard AJ Bradley at eight points, five assists, five rebounds and two steals.

UNK heads to Northwest Missouri State (7-12) and Missouri Western State (6-13) next weekend.