Lopers defeat defending national champion Bearcats 66-59
In a generation of high-octane offense and efficiency in transition, basketball has rare occurrences of a victor not having to score over 70 points to ensure a win. The Loper men did just that on Jan. 18 against the defending national champion Northwest Missouri State Bearcats.
Entering the game at 6-10, UNK had a lot to prove against a Bearcat team that was 15-1 and ranked second in the entire nation. Knowing what they were up against, the Lopers made tight defensive adjustments on the interior to make sure the Bearcats weren’t getting comfortable to score in the paint.
If UNK was going to lose, head coach Kevin Lofton was only allowing that to happen from the outside with shooting. This strategy paid off as UNK held the Bearcats to 27 percent shooting from the three-point arc.
The Loper men showed the home crowd at Buckle Court to not count this team out of a fight, especially when their backs are against the wall. UNK has missed starting guard Yashua Trent, a senior physical education major from Chicago, Illinois, and also freshman forward Austin Luger, a wildlife biology major from Alliance. Both have missed playing time due to injury.
UNK utilized fast and accurate passing, along with a solid pick and roll offense, to set the tone for the entire game. One of the most notable impacts had nothing to do with statistics, however.
Freshman forward undecided major Weston Baker McGrath from Marshall, Minnesota, brought the passion and intensity off the bench—something that a team needs if it wants to maintain long-term success. McGrath only scored five points, but he stayed in the minds of each Bearcat player he went up against by denying three shots and contesting many more.
With McGrath bringing his all through effort and defensive prowess, seniors Lane Rohrich and Trey Lansman put in more than their fair share of work on the offense. Rohrich, an exercise science/physical therapy major from Pierce, only missed two field goals and scored a game high of 24 points. Rohrich was dialed in from the three-point range too, making two clutch long range bombs in the middle of the second half to stretch the lead over the Bearcats.
Lansman, a health and P.E. K-12 major from Harlan, Iowa, made his presence felt down in the low post all night, racking up 19 points and also splashing in three of UNK’s seven three pointers himself.
Even when the ball was out of his hands, Lansman proved himself as the cool-headed veteran enforcer, setting strong screens that got the Bearcats defense stuck and used to his body to bully his way around or through smaller defenders.
UNK improved their record to 7-10 making a turn with this game and are now a dominant 5-1 at Buckle Court. The Lopers have shown time and again that even the best teams have a hard time going against them when the Loper fan base is right behind their team.
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