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Late Mule Run the Difference; Tough Road Trip on Tap

Kearney, Neb. – The Central Missouri Mules had five players scored in double figures and closed on a 21-9 run to down Nebraska-Kearney, 77-66, Saturday night at the Health & Sports Center.

The Mules (7-6, 4-5) stop a three-game losing streak to the Lopers (5-9, 1-7) and now lead the all-time series by a 9-8 margin.

Iowa redshirt reserve junior guard Parker Badding went off to the tune of a career-high 29 points on 7 of 10 three-point shooting. Averaging just over three points per game on the year, he made six treys in the first half with his seventh giving the Lopers a 57-56 lead with 9:30 to play. However, the Mules grabbed the lead back 32 seconds later and never looked back.  

"Credit to our guys. In the first half it looked bleak but they fought their way back and got it down to five. When they got up 11 points, we said let's just get it down by five at halftime and we can work with that," said UNK head coach Kevin Lofton. "We couldn't get David (Simental) or Darrian (Nebeker) going down the stretch which has kind of been working for us. That really hurt."

A Badding three-point play cut the UCM deficit to one, 61-60, by the 7:35 mark but the Mules scored the game's next six points. They came on back-to-back threes from 6-9 junior forward Gavin Pinkley. He finished with a team-high 15 points.

"When it looked like we turned the corner they turned up the defense a little bit. We just couldn't get execute anything and they did a good job of denying us and making it tough when we did have an opportunity," said Lofton.  

UCM out-scored UNK 30-20 in the paint and were plus six in points off a season-high 18 Lopers turnovers. Besides Pinkley's production, reserve Cameron Hunter got close to a double double (10 points & eight rebounds) with D1 transfer Trey Sides at 13 points on three triples. 

"They had Hays on the ropes but about the 10-minute mark Hays made their move. Today, they (UCM) were able sustained it," said Lofton.

Badding made 10 of 15 shots in 30 minutes off the bench. His previous career-high of nine points came against Newman in December. Next, Colorado freshman Sean Evans tallied 17 points on 5 of 7 three-point shooting with Alliance senior Austin Luger not playing in the second half due to injury. Finally, Utah senior forward Darrian Nebeker was at eight points, seven boards and four assists.  

"So much respect for Parker and what he did today. That was next level," said Lofton

UNK heads to Missouri Western and defending national champ Northwest Missouri next weekend.

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