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UNK WBB: Trio of Lions Have Big Night Over Lopers

University of Nebraska Kearney Lopers logo.

Kearney, Neb. – Missouri Southern State hit eight first half three pointers and had a trio carry the load offensively as the Lions held off Nebraska-Kearney, 86-75, Thursday night at the Health & Sports Center.

In a battle of NCAA regionally ranked squads, MSSU (19-6, 15-4) takes the season series from the Lopers (18-8, 12-8).

UNK was hot early on, making five of their first seven shots to grab a 13-6 lead. However, MSSU senior Kryslyn Jones and redshirt junior Kaitlin Hunnicutt started hitting threes as the Lions finished the quarter on a 16-6 run and then tallied 24 points in the second. For added measure, Hunnicutt hit a half-court shot to beat the first-quarter buzzer.

"Teams that have shot the three well have really been a thorn in our side and we've got to find a way to defend that line a little bit better," said UNK head coach Drew Johnson. "Quality teams are going to find different ways to score so we have to be ready to roll there."

MSSU was 8 of 13 from the arc over the first 20 minutes with Jones (3 for 3) and Hunnicutt (4 of 6) doing most of the damage. In the Lopers last home game, Newman sunk 16 of 33 long range shots. While the Lions cooled off after the break (2 for 13), UNK couldn't come back from a 41-25 hole.

"They have talented players and are a talented team. Jones got going in the second quarter and Hunnicutt was good too," said Johnson. "We just didn't guard well enough in the first and second quarters."

A three from redshirt junior Meg Burns (Ankeny, Ia.) and another from junior Samantha Moore (Mullen) made it just a 46-42 score early in the third. However, MSSU scored the next six to get the lead back into double figures. UNK countered again, getting within three, but the Lions roared back, opening a 63-54 lead late in the third.

In the fourth quarter, the Lopers got the lead down to six and then trailed 77-70 with possession of the ball and 2:47 left on the clock. But two technical fouls were called on the UNK bench and MSSU promptly hit four straight freebies to put things on ice.

"We were right there on a few occasions, but it takes so much effort to come back when you dig yourself such a hole," said Johnson. "If we defended a little bit better in the first quarter, when we make that great run to start the game, it's a bigger deficit for them. Instead, they hit a half-court shot and take the lead."

Jones finished with a game-high 23 thanks to 8 of 12 (3 of 6 threes) shooting with 6-3 redshirt freshman post Ryan Franklin at 20 in just 24 minutes. She made 9 of 13 shots and was one of eight Lions between three and six rebounds. Finally, Hunnicutt had 19 points on six buckets (four triples).

For UNK, all five starters scored in double figures. Burns hit a career-best six triples to score a game-best 18, Moore had 13 thanks to three treys with grad post Shiloh McCool (Pleasant Hill, Ia.) having her 32nd career double double (13 rebounds, 11 points). Finally, point guard Jillian Aschoff (Lincoln Pius) had her fifth double double (10 assists, 16 points) of the season with redshirt freshman post Bailee Sobczak (Rapid City, S.D.) at 11 points and five boards in 17 minutes.

UNK faces Pittsburg State on Saturday. The Gorillas (19-6, 13-6) fell tonight at Fort Hays State, 61-49.