Northwest Holds Off UNK Men
Kearney, Neb. – Defending national champion Northwest Missouri State got 25 points from senior forward Ryan Hawkins and 20 from sophomore forward Luke Waters to hold off Nebraska-Kearney, 73-63, Saturday evening at the Health & Sports Center.
The No. 1/3 Bearcats improve to 8-1 and are now 139-7 since the start of the 2016-17 season. Northwest won the 2018-19 Division II National Title with last year’s tourney being canceled. UNK, playing yet another game decided by 10 points, falls to 4-7.
“What they did to us in the last three minutes (patient offense) is what we want to be able to do other teams moving forward. They took a situation where if we hit a three it’s a one possession game with two minutes left … they turned that into a 10-point win,” UNK head coach Kevin Lofton said. “That’s experience, they are a well-coached team, and they obviously have good players.”
Both teams were a bit short-handed as the ‘Cats were minus star guard Diego Bernard for 40 minutes with Loper senior forward Austin Luger (Alliance) not able to go the final 4:51 after landing on a Northwest player.
The Lopers never led and fell behind by as many as 16 points but kept battling and clawing their way back into things. California redshirt sophomore Myles Arnold, after scoring a season-best 16 points Thursday in a win over No. 16/22 Missouri Western, went for a team-high 23 today with Luger (16) and Bellevue lefty Cedric Johnson (12) also hitting double digits.
Northwest, who was plus seven on the glass and tallied 44 of its points down low, was up 15 early in the second half and then by eleven, 63-52, with 5:52 when the Lopers made its final move. A 9-4 spurt featured five points from Luger and two free throws by Arnold. Down 65-61 at the 3:00 minute mark, UNK saw the ‘Cats hit six straight free throws and grab a key offensive rebound to close things out.
“It helps when you have one of the best players in the country (Trevor Hudgins) at the free throw line. He didn’t miss one,” Lofton said. “They got a couple of key offensive rebounds … one they went and got and one they tipped out. They then were able to run the shot clock down.”
Hawkins went all 40 minutes and was 10 of 19 and 5 of 6 at the line to reach his point total. He also had five boards and drew five fouls. Waters sunk 8 of 12 shots and managed four rebounds in 33 minutes. Finally, Hudgins went all 40 minutes as well and had 12 points, five assists and drew six fouls. Northwest finished 15 of 16 at the line.
For UNK Arnold was 9 of 14 from the floor and 4 of 4 at the line in playing 34 minutes off the bench. Luger had six rebounds and three dimes to go along with his offensive output with Johnson making 5 of 8 shots and grabbing six boards.
“Huge game for Myles and the thing we’re excited about is that he did this against the top half of the league. He really showed this weekend he needs to be on the floor a lot more and that’s what we plan on doing,” Lofton said.
The Lopers head to Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern State next weekend.