The University of Nebraska at Kearney basketball team is using a tried-and-true method to help it secure the best free-throw shooting percentage in the country.
If the Lopers don’t make their shots from the line during an end-of-practice drill, they run. The length of the court and back for each miss.
“It kind of puts a little bit of pressure on it,’’ Ty Danielson said. “You don’t want to run a lot at the end of practice.’’
UNK has led Division II most of the season. After going 37 of 40 at the line in two games last week, the Lopers passed Division III member SUNY-Geneseo (82.2) for first place in the NCAA overall at 82.8 percent (370 of 447). That includes 1,062 NCAA schools.
In Division I, Norfolk (Virginia) State leads at 79.9 percent.
Danielson, a 6-foot-3 sophomore guard from York, is the best free-throw shooter on the team, making 88 percent of his shots. Right behind are seniors Connor Beranek at 87.5 and Ethan Brozek at 85.1.
Beranek, who is averaging 25.1 points a game, has surpassed 2,000 career points with 2,032.
Nine Lopers shoot 75 percent or better at the line. The Lopers average 18.5 free throws per game.
“A bunch of guys have stepped up and made some crunch free throws that have really paid off,’’ Danielson said. “Free throws are definitely a big part of the game.’’
UNK has shot better than 90 percent four times this season. The Lopers’ best performance was 95.5 (21 of 22) against Northeastern State and Fort Hays State.
Thanks to the extra shooting he does, Danielson usually makes most of his free throws during the practice drill. Each Loper shoots until he makes it, and one time one of them missed four or five in a row.
“That gets frustrating,’’ Danielson said. “I think one time we only had one miss. That’s our most, which is pretty good for 12 guys.’’
They don’t give anyone a hard time about missing in practice, because they just want to offer encouragement so they don’t have to run again. But afterward, all bets are off.
Danielson said the Lopers (12-8, 8-6) like the game-type pressure. Especially when they see it paying off during their three-game win streak.
Even though they lost a tough decision to first-place Northwest Missouri State on Jan. 21, the Lopers felt good about playing them to the wire. Since then, they’ve worked themselves into a fourth-place tie with Washburn in the MIAA.
“We’re all pretty happy about that,’’ Danielson said. “We’ve got everybody back and healthy and we’re ready to keep it rolling.’’
In other basketball news:
» The Loper women dropped another heartbreaker to nationally ranked Fort Hays State, falling 82-81 in overtime Saturday. The Tigers hit a last-second shot to win. Earlier this season in Kansas, Hays rallied for an 82-75 victory in OT. UNK is now 3-7 in games decided by 10 points or less. With eight games remaining, the Lopers can still finish in the MIAA’s top eight and secure a first-round home tournament game Feb. 29.
» Peru State’s men were ranked 21st in NAIA Division I last week, their highest rating since the 1992-93 team finished fifth after a trip to the national championship as an independent team playing in the first year of NAIA Division II.
It is believed the past two weeks are the first two rankings since the 1993 campaign. The Bobcats upset No. 6 William Penn Saturday and should move up one or two spots this week.
» The Midland men went 2-0 last week, including a 95-78 upset of No. 3 Briar Cliff on Saturday. Jesse Jones erupted for a career-high 45 points, with 15 rebounds and eight assists. He also recorded a double-double Wednesday in a 92-63 blowout of Nebraska Wesleyan with 33 points and 10 assists. He nearly averaged a triple-double for the week, finishing with averages of 39 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
» For the 21st time at the Concordia University Invitational Tournament, both Bulldog teams claimed titles.
Junior Chandler Folkerts averaged 22.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.5 blocks on his way to CIT MVP honors. Freshman Quinn Wragge earned the honor on the women’s side while averaging 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. The men defeated Concordia Wisconsin 86-85; The women stopped Concordia Wisconsin 75-53.
» The Western Nebraska Community College women saw their 11-game win streak snapped Saturday against Otero Junior College, 68-58. The Cougars drop to 7-1 in Region IX South Division play and 18-3 overall. The Cougars and McCook Community College are tied for the South lead and are scheduled to play Wednesday in McCook.
» Senior Olutola Olushola scored a season-high 19 points and pulled down a career-best eight rebounds on Saturday, but Bellevue suffered an 85-81 overtime loss at Waldorf to snap a five-game win streak. Bellevue (17-8, 5-2) hosts Jamestown at 5 p.m. Saturday.
» Bellevue women’s coach Dave Denly has announced the signing of the first recruit in program history. Three-time Bellevue volleyball All-American Beth Walker, from Dubuque Wahlert Catholic, will play as a graduate student next season.
» Doane women’s basketball’s 36-point win over No. 7 Concordia last week was its largest margin of victory over the Bulldogs since 1991-92.
» The Doane women’s distance medley relay team broke the school record by five seconds on Saturday at the Concordia Classic. Their time of 12:11.28 is the fastest in the NAIA.
» Doane’s wrestling team has two dual matches left but has already established a school record with 11 dual wins. The Tigers are ranked No. 20 in the NAIA with three wrestlers nationally ranked.
» Concordia continues to lead the NAIA in five events: women’s 1,000 meters (Kim Wood), women’s one mile (Wood), men’s shot put (Zach Lurz), women’s shot put (Stephanie Coley) and the men’s weight throw (Cody Boellstorff). They own a total of 25 marks that rank in the top 10 on the NAIA national lists. Wood, a senior from Greeley, Nebraska, owns four times that rank inside the top six among all NAIA competitors: 1,000 (first), mile (first), 800 (second) and 600 (sixth).
» Nebraska Wesleyan junior Katie Krick has the best time in the GPAC in all three sprinting events. She won the 200 at the Concordia Classic and was second in the 60 in the first time running the event this season. She’s third in Division III in the 200 (25.75), fifth in the 400 (57.88) and 19th in the 60 (7.89).
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