TAHLEQUAH – Northeastern State women's basketball held a two-point advantage at halftime but No. 15 Nebraska-Kearney executed its MIAA-leading defense in the second half for a 77-57 victory in Tahlequah Thursday night.
The RiverHawks (5-13, 5-13 MIAA) battled back from an early 17-6 deficit to lead 34-32 at the half, but could not find the answer in a second half that they were outscored 44-23. They were 3-of-12 in the third quarter that saw them outscored 21-9.
Senior Cenia Hayes led NSU with 21 points and sophomore Britney Ho and junior Kiarra Brooks added nine each off the bench. Sophomore Zaria Collins did not reach double-figure scoring for the second-straight game finishing with eight points and led the team with eight rebounds.
"In the second half we just kind of fell out of rhythm," NSU coach Fala Bullock said.
The Lopers (15-3, 15-3) were led by Elissa Backes with 28 points on 12-17 shooting and five steals. She was joined in double figures by Brooke Carlson with 14, Haley Simental with 11 and Klaire Kirsch added 10. UNK shot 56.9 percent from the floor and had 26 points off turnovers.
Nebraska-Kearney 76, NSU 72 (OT)
Cedric Johnson twice hit a pair of free throws in the final :23 for Kearney (7-10, 7-10).
It was a contest that saw 14 lead changes and 16 ties, a dozen in the second half that began with the score knotted at 22 after NSU battled back from a 10-2 run that gave UNK its biggest lead of the game at 16-8 with 10:55 go to in the opening half.
It would be a back and forth affair from that point.
Daniel Dotson’s 3 with 12:46 to go in the second half was the biggest lead in the second half by either team after intermission. Darrian Nebeker’s free throws tied it at 65 with :15 left. NSU (2-13, 2-13) lost a shot at winning in regulation on Rashad Perkins’ turnover as time expired.
Trey Sampson led NSU with 20 points. Obi Agu recorded his second double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Perkins came off the bench and scored 15 points.
Due to COVID-19 protocols, the RiverHawks were playing without most of its coaching staff and were led by assistant coach Lucas Hunter.
"We didn't execute very well in the first half (8 for 29), but give our guys credit as we shot it at 68 percent from the field in the second and they executed a lot of the shots within our offense," Hunter said.
Next up for NSU: Fort Hays State at home, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
Connors State postponed
Connors State's home contests with Northern-Tonkawa were postponed Thursday. Also with the threat of heavy snow forecast on Monday, games scheduled at NEO for both the men and women have been postponed. The next scheduled games are Thursday against Northern-Enid at Warner.