At one point in the game Thursday, Washburn had stretched their lead to as much as 11, but the potent offense of the University of Nebraska Kearney was too much to overcome in the end, as the Ichabods dropped their second straight.
The start of the bout could not be blamed for the loss, as the Ichabods came out of the gates well. Javion Blake and Isaac Clark got them rolling early on. Between four points by Blake and eight by Clark (which included a pair of deep threes), the two combined for Washburn’s first 12 points of the evening. UNK kept pace early however, using good ball movement to create open looks. Those open looks became harder to come by for the Lopers as the half continued, and Washburn began to build a lead. As the defense improved, so did the offense, especially dynamic big man Brady Skeens, who began to get going down low with a turnaround jumper in the lane, followed by a trio of buckets from the block. Skeens finished the first half with an impressive stat line; eight points, seven rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot. Balance was key in the first half offensively as the Ichabods had seven different players score, and one of them was Cameron Wiggins, who provided a bit of a spark off the bench. Wiggins hit a tough step back three early, and then knocked down a deep three as time expired to push the Washburn lead all the way to eight at halftime.
“I think I was able to provide some energy off the bench,” Wiggins said. “Once me and my bench crew got in there, we were just looking to pick up where they left off and hit shots like we always do.”
Behind five three-pointers and a shooting percentage of 46.7 percent, the Ichabods went into the locker room on a high, up 39-31.
The second half started off looking like the first, with Washburn’s Randall Smith knocking down a pull up three with a defender in his face to give the Ichabods an 11 point lead, their largest of the game. It was at this point that the Lopers kicked into gear, and began to climb back.
“Our start of the second half was just not what we wanted,” head coach Bob Chipman said. “We really let them get their head up, and when they get their head up they have some guys that can really score.”
Four of their first seven made shots in the second half were three-pointers, and after a couple empty possessions by Washburn, UNK found themselves right back in the game. At the 13:23 mark, the game was tied at 53. From there on out, it was all Lopers. Easy back door cuts and open lanes for dribble penetration lead to help defense, which allowed space for UNK’s proficient three point shooters to let it fly, and that they did. The Lopers knocked down seven second half threes, and shot 65 percent from the field in the second half. The Ichabods fought behind Skeens, who tacked on another eight points in the period. At the same time UNK was heating up, Washburn went ice cold, especially from three. Defensively, the Ichabods briefly attempted a zone, which was dismantled quickly resulting in an open trey for the Lopers. Washburn never could really dig in their heels defensively, and the UNK lead continued to expand. When the final buzzer sounded, Washburn fell 88-73, outscored 57 to 34 in the second period. Skeens led the Ichabods in scoring, finishing with 16 points and 14 rebounds to go with three assists and three blocks.
“We’re gonna have to go back to the drawing board,” Chipman said of the team going forward. “When you get worked like we did at home, you almost have to start looking down the bench and give other guys a chance. It just did not look good out there.”
After a home loss to Fort Hays State University on Saturday, Washburn will next be in action on the road in St. Joseph against Missouri Western State University, Feb. 8, at 7:30 p.m.