With fan restrictions at arenas, there won't be much of a home-court advantage this season in MIAA basketball.
But Lincoln coach John Moseley firmly believes having the home-court advantage Thursday night made a big difference for the Blue Tigers.
"This would have been a totally different outcome if we were on the road tonight," Moseley said after Lincoln's 67-60 win against Nebraska-Kearney at Jason Gym. "I'm a really positive coach, but I'm not happy with the way we played and competed tonight.
"I could come up with 1,000 reasons why we played sluggish, but none of them are legitimate. It's just that we didn't come out and play as well as we're capable of playing."
Lincoln trailed for just 20 seconds in Thursday's win, which happened when Nebraska-Kearney scored on its opening possession.
The Blue Tigers answered with a 10-2 run, as Quinton Drayton scored eight of those points in the game's first five minutes.
"Q is a guy that can play for us offensively," Moseley said.
The Lopers battled back to tie the score at 13, but Lincoln took the lead for good on its next possession when Jordan Notch scored off an in-bounds pass. Yaniel Vidal followed with a 3-pointer to make the score 18-13 at the midway point of the first half.
Lincoln was only whistled for six fouls in the first half, but Drayton picked up his second foul and went to the bench, missing the last 14:59 of the first half. Sevon Witt had his second foul with 9:23 left and didn't return until the second half.
Still, without their two leading scorers for much of the first half, Lincoln still held a 33-26 advantage at intermission. All eight Blue Tigers who played in the first half were in the scoring column at the break.
"Both teams had guys sitting on the bench with foul trouble," Moseley said. "Jordan Notch came in and did some things, hit a couple baskets."
Witt scored six straight points in the second half to give Lincoln its largest lead of the game at 43-30 with 15:02 to play. After scoring in transition, he pushed his way through the lane for another basket, then caught a lob pass from Cameron Potts for another bucket.
Nebraska-Kearney answered with three 3-pointers from Austin Luger to cut the Lincoln lead to single digits. Luger had just three points at half due to foul trouble, but he finished with a game-high 26 points.
"He hit huge shots and had a really good game against us," Moseley said. "We didn't do a great job of guarding him."
Lincoln made just four field goals in an eight-minute stretch. During that time, Nebraska-Kearney cut its deficit to 52-49 with 7:06 to play.
"They went zone, and we knew they were going to go zone," Moseley said. "There's going to be a lot of zone this year."
The Lopers had a chance to get it down to one point, but after a missed jumper, Ni'Sean Rigmaiden hit a 3 with 4:40 remaining. Nebraska-Kearney missed its next three shots, and Drayton added another 3 to push the Lincoln lead to 60-51 with 2:54 to play.
"I thought it started with Cam Potts," Moseley said of Lincoln's defense, which scored 16 points off 17 turnovers. "Cam brought it tonight, and his energy defensively was really good for us."
Potts finished the game with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and five steals, playing all 40 minutes. He also finished with three dunks.
"That's got to be a career-high since he's been here," Moseley said of the dunking ability of the 6-foot-1 Potts.
Lincoln was able to get to the free-throw line often in the final minute to secure the win, improving to 4-0 at home.
Witt and Drayton each matched Potts with 13 points, while Rigmaiden added 12 points for the Blue Tigers.
Sam Morris joined Luger in double figures with 11 points for Nebraska-Kearney (2-6).
Lincoln (5-2) will host Fort Hays State at 3 p.m. Saturday. Fort Hays State (3-5) lost 71-64 on Thursday at Central Missouri, but the Tigers knocked off Kansas State 81-68 in an exhibition game last month.
"That was a great win for our conference, it was great to get our conference recognized on a national level," Moseley said.
With Thursday's win, Lincoln is in fourth place in the MIAA standings with two-thirds of the regular season remaining.
"We want to make the jump into the top third of this league," Moseley said. "To do that, you've got to come back from a game like tonight and play better on Saturday."