Nebraska Kearney 60, NSU 57
In Larry Gipson’s words, his team was only at Jack Dobbins Field House because it had to be on Saturday.
“I think Kearney came to play, and we just showed up because it was game time,” the NSU coach said following NSU’s loss to Nebraska Kearney.
“We didn’t come with the focus necessary to win the game.”
Nebraska Kearney’s Tyler Shields broke a 54-all tie by draining two free throws with 48 seconds left to play to give the Lopers the lead for good. Nebraska Kearney’s Thomas Cooper and Jon Henderson each made two free throws apiece inside the final minute to add to the Lopers’ total. Sandwiched in between was Jon Miller’s 3-pointer – NSU’s only points in the final 1:39 of the game.
“Our kids did make some plays, and we made some free throws,” Nebraska Kearney coach Kevin Lofton said. “Our free-throw shooting on the year has been decent, but it’s nice that they made the ones that we needed, for the most part.”
However, NSU had chances to tie the game late. Bryton Hobbs missed a trey with 10 seconds left, and after two missed foul shots by Nebraska Kearney’s Mike Dentlinger, Hobbs missed another 3-pointer as time expired.
Jermaine Bransford paced the RiverHawks (10-2, 3-1 MIAA) with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Bransford’s double-double performance was his third in a row and his fifth this year.
Hobbs, NSU’s only other scorer in double figures, had 11 points, eight assists and six rebounds for NSU, but he went only 5 of 15 from the field.
Making field goals wasn’t just a problem for Hobbs, it was an epidemic for the RiverHawks. NSU shot a modest 41.3 percent (26 of 63) from the floor, but several of those missed field goals were point-blank attempts, including Landon DeMasters’ chance shot that could have tied the game at 56 with 31 seconds left.
“I think, by our count, we missed seven or eight layups today,” said Gipson, whose team also went 5 of 23 (21.7 percent) on 3-point attempts and 0 of 3 from the free-throw line. “I think you could look at every one of them being critical. We just didn’t finish at the rim and make shots.”
Saturday’s game marked the first time since February of 2009 that NSU didn’t convert a free throw. The last time the RiverHawks did it at home was November of 2007.
Losers of five of their last six games, the Lopers (4-8, 1-3) were led by Dentlinger’s 17 points and nine rebounds. Henderson chipped in with 11 points, and Pierre Newton added 10 points and eight rebounds.
“Our record is bad and we’ve had our bad stretches, but we’ve had some stretches where we’ve played pretty decent,” Lofton said. “But this is the first one against the level of competition, with Northeastern being 10-1, that we were able to sustain for 40 minutes.”
The game, which Nebraska Kearney led 28-24 at halftime, featured seven ties and 14 lead changes.