MARYVILLE, Missouri - The No. 2-ranked Northwest Missouri State Bearcat men's basketball team held off the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers for a 65-60 home win on Thursday in Bearcat Arena.
Northwest won its ninth straight game to improve to 17-1 overall and 7-1 in MIAA play. Nebraska-Kearney saw its four-game win streak snapped as the Lopers fall to 12-6 overall and 6-3 in league action.
The Bearcats looked to turn it into a laugher in the first half by leaping out to a 19-point bulge at 33-14 with 3:28 to play in the opening half. UNK then began to dig itself out of the hole and finished the half on a 13-1 run. The Bearcats did not make a field goal in the final 3:28 of the first half after burying 13 shots in building the lead. Northwest led 34-27 at the intermission.
On the opening possession of the second half Diego Bernard connected on an alley-oop pass to Ryan Welty that pushed the lead back to nine at 36-27. The Lopers pulled to within two at 39-37 on a two free throws from R.J. Pair with 15:40 to play.
The Bearcats took the lead back to double-digits at 53-43 on a three-point play from Trevor Hudgins with 8:11 left in the game. However, a 6-0 run from the Lopers brought it back to 53-49 with 6:35 play. The Lopers's Morgan Soucie completed the run with a steal and dunk.
Bernard hit a jumper on the left side of the lane with 1:56 to play that gave Northwest a 63-57 lead. Both squads then had two empty scoring possessions before UNK's Kyle Juhl sank a three-pointer with :32 seconds to play in the game that trimmed it to a three-point Bearcat advantage. Bernard was fouled and missed the front end of a 1-and-1 giving the ball back to UNK with a chance to tie.
UNK's Jake Walker's three-pointer from the right wing missed off the left of the rim, but the ball bounced and and the Lopers's recorded the offensive rebound and fired to Juhl in the corner for another three-point attempt. Juhl's shot rimmed hight and Northwest's Ryan Hawkins secured his game-high 12th rebound of the contest. Hawkins was fouled and went to the free throw line with :00.4 on the clock. Hawkins sank both free throws to close out the 65-60 triumph.
Hawkins scored a game-high 24 points to go along with his 12 rebounds. It was his fourth double-double and 10th 20-point scoring game on the season. Hawkins also registered a game-high four steals. Luke Waters chipped in with 13 points, 11 of which came in the opening half. Welty knocked in all three of his three-point attempts and was 4-of-5 from the field for 11 points. Bernard contributed with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
Northwest will return to Bearcat Arena on Saturday to take on the Fort Hays State Tigers. The Tigers are 7-10 overall and 1-8 in the MIAA.
NOTES: Northwest has won 27 straight home games, which ranks as the second-longest active streak among NCAA Division II teams ... Northwest is 10-0 at home this season ... Northwest is 119-9 in Bearcat Arena since the start of the 2011-12 season ... the Bearcats have won 44 of their last 45 MIAA home games - a stretch that began Jan. 14, 2015 ... Hawkins moved into Northwest's top-10 all-time rebounding list in the game ... Hawkins ranks No. 8 on the Bearcat rebounding list with 577 career caroms ... he surpassed Rick Jolley (1993-1996), Mark Adams (1976-1980) and Bob Sundell (1986-1989), who all tallied 574 rebounds for the Bearcats ... Northwest is 8-1 all-time vs. UNK ... Northwest is 4-0 in Bearcat Arena vs. UNK.
--- Northwest Athletics ---