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UNK men’s basketball team rebounds from obstacles

Photo by Ryan Range Myles Arnold lead the Lopers with 35 points in the game against UCO.

Despite a season plagued with injuries and a bout of COVID-19, the UNK’s men’s basketball team has not had any cancellations or postponements of their games. 

The team is still trying to figure out how to get past their struggles.

“We have too many stretches right now where we have those blown defensive assignments,” said UNK head coach Kevin Lofton on KRVN following their loss against Fort Hays State on Jan. 30. “Maybe we got the right play called, and we get the shot that we need. We’re just not converting it.”

The biggest win for the Lopers was over No. 16/22 Missouri Western State 75-67 on Jan. 14 at the Health and Sports Center. The Lopers got many contributions all around as guard Jake Walker, guard Matt Brien and guard Myles Arnold all led the Lopers in scoring with 16 points each. The team made nine three-pointers in the second half and scored 51 points in an impressive offensive effort. 

“This is the second game in a row where [Matt Brien] has gone out and shot it well, and it makes a difference,” Lofton said after the game on KRVN. “Cedric [Johnson] in the second half really woke up and gave us a lot. He hit a couple of threes in the second half that really kept us going.”

Johnson had 11 points for the Lopers and went 3-4 from the three-point line. 

The Lopers hosted Central Oklahoma on Feb. 4 at the Health and Sports Center. The Lopers found themselves in a hole early, trailing 10-26 midway through the first half. UNK cut the lead with a 19-6 run to bring the score to 29-32 with 4:20 left to play in the first. The Bronchos were able to maintain their lead throughout the rest of the half and extended it to 39-47 at halftime. 

UNK found themselves in a hole again in the second half as UCO started on a 13-2 run to extend their lead to 41-60. The Lopers responded with a 20-4 run provided by a great effort from Arnold to cut the score to 68-70 with 7:23 to go. The game was back and forth from there: Brien was able to hit a three to cut the lead to 76-78 with 1:56 to go, and UCO responded with a three-pointer of their own by guard Jaden Wells, giving them the momentum they needed to close out a tightly contested game. UCO defeated UNK 79-87.

“I am proud of our guys’ fight,” said Lofton after the game. “They really just didn’t give up on it. We stuck a few threes in the second half that kept us in the fight.”

The Loper squad broke the school record for attempted three-pointers in a game with 51 attempts, breaking the previous record of 40.  Arnold drove this effort, going 8 for 18 from behind the arc and leading the team with 35 points. 

    “[Arnold] is kinda slowly but surely starting to turn the corner,” Lofton said. “We’re doing all we can to instill confidence in him that we believe in him.”

Following their fourth loss in their last five games, the Lopers are closing in on the MIAA tournament on March 4. 

“I think you go back to the basics,” Lofton said. “We pride ourselves on trying to be a team that works hard, that’s mentally tough, that’s fundamentally sound and plays together. That’s kind of what we try to hang our hat on and get out of this mess.”

The 5-10 Lopers faced off against Newman on Saturday, Feb. 6. The Lopers won a closely contested game against the Jets 70-65 behind 26 points from Walker. They will be back home for their last two home games on Feb. 18 and Feb. 20.

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GRANT TIGHE, Sports Editor
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