KEARNEY, Neb. - Northeastern State (2-5 in MIAA) was in a groove throughout the first half at Nebraska-Kearney (6-0 in MIAA) leading at the half, but a 38-21 showing following the halftime break did the RiverHawks in. In a game that had a 30-minute delayed start due to COVID-19 precautions, NSU fell 68-56.
It was the tale of two halves for the RiverHawks and leading scorer sophomore Zaria Collins who scored 14 points, all in the first half. After halftime, NSU fell flat according to head coach Fala Bullock.
"Against a really good Kearney team we needed to be prepared, and I thought our starting lineup got the game started right. We had lots of action and were drawing fouls," Bullock said. "We were hitting the chippies early but as they got more physical with us it wore us down a little bit. We were shortchanging our shots inside but we have got to make baskets."
Collins got inside immediately and backed down her defender for the first score of the game. The RiverHawks kept attacking and after a Maegan Lee driving layup UNK was forced to call a timeout down four with 7:56 remaining. The sophomore forward scored 12 points in the opening quarter overmatching seemingly every Lopers defender.
With 2:20 left Nebraska-Kearney took its first lead of the game 15-14, but Northeastern State quickly responded halting it there. The RiverHawks scored the final six points to lead 20-15 at the end of the first stanza by shooting 52.9 percent from the floor.
Morgan Lee drove to the lane, just like the first quarter, and expanded it to seven. Nebraska-Kearney then made a 7-0 run before Cenia Hayes drew a charge to enliven the RiverHawks. With 6:10 remaining Collins tried to overpower two Lopers missing her hook shot, but luckily classmate Britney Ho was nearby to clean it up.
The next play UNK lackadaisically brought up the ball and Shae Sanchez picked off a crossing pass at midcourt. By making the fast break basket NSU took an 11-point lead, handing UNK its biggest deficit of the season. When Zaria Collins hobbled off the court at the 3:37 mark UNK started producing inside. A five-second violation and loose ball foul on the offensive glass hindered the RiverHawks as well.
To bring its lead to 35-30, Hayes head faked before nailing a 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining and Morgan Lee snuck in for a layup. It was the most points allowed in a half by UNK this season. The 56-point output for the game is also the highest total of a Loper opponent this year.
Coming out of the halftime break the Lopers took advantage of a few RiverHawks miscues resulting in turnovers and leading scorer, Brooke Carlson, scored her first points of the day. When Kelsey Sanger hit a 3-pointer to take the lead at 6:42 the Lopers didn't look back. It took until the 6:15 mark for Northeastern State to score and they hung around until the 4:13 mark when UNK took a 29-15 run to close the game. Its 12-3 run after taking the lead with 2:41 remaining was too much to overcome into the final stanza.
In the second half, the RiverHawks shot 25.0 percent (6-24) to the Lopers 50.0 (15-30).
For the game, the Lopers took 10 more free throw attempts, outrebounded the RiverHawks by 11 and implemented their style of basketball. UNK was led by Klaire Kirsch with 18 points and nine rebounds, she was joined in double-figure scoring by three others.
The RiverHawks were led by Cenia Hayes with 16 points. NSU had nine steals in the game with the Lee twins grabbing two and Shae Sanchez also had two pickpockets.
Women's basketball is off until Jan. 2 when it hosts Washburn inside the NSU Event Center at 1:30 p.m. It will be the first women's game in Tahlequah in 35 days and both RiverHawks wins have come at home.