ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Senior forward Darrian Nebeker hit a 17-footer from the left wing with four seconds left to help the University of Nebraska at Kearney edge Missouri Western, 81-79, Thursday night in St. Joseph, Mo.
The Lopers (6-9, 2-7) stopped a four-game losing streak while the Griffons (8-9, 4-5) lost a fifth straight. “We were tired of losing and needed that desperately,” UNK coach Kevin Lofton said on the KRVN radio post-game radio show. “The guys just found a way. Sometimes when a team (Mo West) has some key players out, the pressure is off them. It frees them just to play and that’s what they started doing. We got tight a little but we found our way out of it.”
Missouri Western was minus two of its top three scorers and fell behind 30-7 midway through the first half. The Lopers shot 63% (15 of 24) over the first 20 minutes to get out to that lead.
The Griffons cut the elad to 41-35 at the break. Making 56% (18 of 32) of their second-half shots, the Griffons not only whittled down the deficit but took a 77-76 lead after a Reese Glover basket with 1:02 remaining. UNK had led by as many as 13 in the second half.
The Lopers responded with a Matt Brien triple from the right wing with 42 seconds left but forward JaRon Thames attacked the paint and converted a layup 17 seconds later.
With the clock running out, UNK point guard David Simental got the ball at the top of the key. He found Nebeker on the wing who hit a step-back jumper. Nebeker finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals. The Griffs had a chance to tie or win the game and, after a timeout, Thames tried to hit another runner in the lane. This time the ball found clanked off the rim.
UNK freshman Sean Evans had a game-high 22 points. Austin Luger and Simental had 11 apiece with Brien and Parker Badding combining for 15 points off the bench.
The Lopers finished the night at 63.5% (33 of 52), one of the top shooting nights in recent memory.
UNK heads to two-time defending national champion Northwest Missouri State on Saturday.