WICHITA, Kan. (January 23, 2014) – Kelsey Hoppel buried five three-pointers in the second half and finished with a season-high 22 points to help Lubbock Christian University head coach Steve Gomez claim his 250th career LCU coaching victory in a 73-68 Heartland Conference road win over Newman University Thursday night at Fugate Gymnasium. Their 14th consecutive win keeps them in first place of the Heartland Conference with an 11-0 conference record.
It was another game in which LCU had to overcome a sluggish start. For an eighth consecutive game, LCU found themselves trailing in the opening half. A 7-0 run to open the game caught LCU by surprise, but a trey by Hoppel and an old fashioned three-point play by Emily Pool helped the Lady Chaps climb back to eventually tie the game at 16-16 with 8:09 left in the half. The Jets surged again in the half, as Shekeira Copeland scored five of her 14 first half points during a 9-1 run to take a 25-17 lead with 4:58 to go before the break. LCU nearly had a chance to take the lead heading in the half. They went on 9-0 run for a 28-27 lead before Alexandra Cibattoni hit a jumper at the horn to give the Jets a 29-28 halftime advantage. It marked the third time this season LCU has trailed at the break. The outside shooting was ugly in the half, as the two teams combined to go 2-of-15 from long range (LCU was 1-of-9 and Newman was 1-of-6).
The two teams would end up lighting it up from outside in the second half, and it got underway with Hoppel hitting a three-pointer 22-seconds into the half for a 31-29 LCU lead. Hoppel made five three-pointers in the opening eight minutes of the half. LCU's first four field goals of the half were treys from Hoppel and five of the first eight field goals over the eight minute span were Hoppel three-pointers. The outside-shooting display was not allowing the Lady Chaps to speed past the Jets, as NU answered two of the three-pointers and held LCU to a 51-47 lead with 11:42 remaining. Through the game's first 34 minutes, all six of the team's three-pointers were off the release of Hoppel. She was finally joined by Haley Burton, who connected from long range with 5:49 to go for a 61-56 LCU lead. Cierra Tjaden answered Burton's trey with one of her own, and Newman had the hot-hand outside with Brianna Caldwell nailing a three-pointer with 3:56 to go to cut the Lady Chaps lead to 63-62. Late in the game, Kaycie Boyles took over for LCU to help preserve the lead. She had six field goals in the second half, with five coming in the final nine minutes over a seven minute span. Four of her field goals came with either the game tied or while the LCU lead was by two-points or less. With 3:23 remaining, she had a layup for a 65-62 lead and then followed with a layup with 2:06 left for a 70-64 lead. In the game's remainder, LCU scored their final three points from the free-throw line as Newman ended the game 1-of-4 from the field over the final two minutes. The teams combined for 12 three-pointers in the second half (7 by LCU) after combining for only two in the first half.
Hoppel ended the game with 17 points in the second half and her six three-pointers were one off matching a career high. Her season-high 22 points led the team and was a pair off a game-high 24 points from Ciabattoni. Pool and Boyles each notched 15 points and Burton finished with 11 points. LCU was 8-of-20 from three-point range, with Hoppel going 6-of-7. Burton was 2-of-3 from three-point range, placing the rest of the team a combined 0-of-10. LCU did benefit from a 26-9 advantage in free-throw attempts and a 39-32 advantage in rebounds. Pool and Haley Fowler each had nine rebounds for LCU, with Fowler's mark serving as a career best. LCU struggled from the free-throw line with a mark of 57.7% (15/26) from the line for only their second sub-70% shooting mark from the line this season. Ciabattoni was solid for NU with an 11-of-15 shooting performance from the field and nine rebounds to go along with her 24 points. Copeland, who had 14 in the first half, finished the game with 16 points.
The win was the 250th career win for Gomez, who is in his 11th season coaching the Lady Chaps. He now has an all-time collegiate coaching record of 250-97.
The game was LCU's first game on Kansas soil in program history. They improved to 16-1 overall on the season. NU fell to 9-9 overall and 6-6 in the conference. LCU heads to Goodwell, Okla. Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip against Oklahoma Panhandle State to end a season-long six-game road trip.