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The Antelope

Loper basketball shooting high in early season

UNK womens basketball team in the huddle


The UNK men’s and women’s basketball teams dive into a new season with loads of expectations. Both teams come into the season with the same goal of winning, which will require them to play up to their strengths on the court.

“One of our biggest strengths this year is the mobility of our post,” said senior men’s basketball player Kyle Juhl. “We can get out and run the floor hard and make our offense harder to guard.”

The Lopers men’s basketball team are coming off a 10-18 and 5-14 finish in the MIAA. 

To compound problems, UNK lost a slew of starters to graduation and transferring, including leading scorer Kanon Koster.

The biggest issue for the Lopers this year comes down to the size factor. UNK has only one player taller than 6-foot-5 and that’s junior Austin Luger (Alliance) at 6-8.

“Defensively we don’t have a lot of size, so we have to make sure all 5 guys rebound and then we have to come up with 50/50 balls,” Juhl said.

UNK is 2-3 after a stunning 74-66 win at No. 14 Colorado Mines. The Lopers only double-digit loss was a 15 point defeat at Oklahoma Baptist in the season opener.

With so many close games to start the season, the Lopers are confident they can turn the corner and find ways to win. The goal the team has set for this year is to be in the top half of the MIAA conference.

“I really believe that this year we have the potential to be in the top half of the conference, we played in a lot of close games last year that I think we will be able to win this year,” Juhl said.

UNK women’s basketball team comes into 2019 with similar expectations. Last year, a young roster made the MIAA conference tournament for the sixth straight season.

“We came in with seven freshman, three transfers, and three returning players,” said sophomore women’s player Klaire Kirsch. “Although from the outside it may have seemed like the odds were against us, our coaching staff did an incredible job in helping us grow as a team from the first day.”

Last season did not end how the Lopers wanted it too, losing to Missouri Western State 55-47 in the MIAA tournament opener. UNK is using that loss as fuel to do better this season.

“We are not completely satisfied with how we ended up last season,” Kirsch said. “Given that, we definitely have some fire in our eyes coming into this year.”

The Lopers are currently off to a good start at 4-0. In their last game at Adam State, they mauled the Grizzlies by a score of 70-41.

UNK held its own tournament on Nov. 8-9.

In the season opener against Minnesota Crookston, the Lopers won 79-69. Against in-state rival Wayne State, UNK fought tooth and nail with the Wildcats and came out victorious, 83-79.

“The Crossover Tournament was a good starting experience for us this year,” Kirsch said. “It was important to us to start the season out on a positive note in hopes to propel us with some winning momentum when we get into conference play.”

After being so inexperienced a season ago, this year’s Loper team has a lot better idea what to expect from their competition.

“This year, we have more experience and know what to expect of ourselves and our league, so our standards for this year for our team are higher for sure,” Kirsch said.

UNK men’s basketball is at home at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22 against South Dakota School of Mines, with the women at Chadron State College at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 22.

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