Women's Basketball advances to Saturday's Big Sky final!
By ZACH BOND
POCATELLO, Idaho -- For the first time in school history the Northern Colorado women's basketball program has earned an opportunity to play for a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Bears earned that chance Friday night with a convincing 51-43 win over Montana State in the semifinals of the 2012 Big Sky Conference Women's Basketball Championship at Reed Gym.
Northern Colorado (20-10, 10-5 Big Sky) was powered by its own version of a "Big Three,"stifling defense and a timely second-half run to push itself to the championship.
"I'm really proud of our team tonight," Northern Colorado coach Jaime White said. "Even though the score was low in the first half, I knew we were playing well. I thought our kids just really played defense first and then stepped up and knocked down some shots when we needed it.
"[There was] a little bit of jitters, a little bit of nerves [in the first half]. Everybody says it's hard to win that third game [against the same team] and that is probably what Montana State was going through, and on our side I think we were a little unsure about how we would play against them considering how we have played previously."
After getting out to a bit of a slow start and going into the lockerroom leading by just two, 18-16, the Bears came out in the second half like a team locked in on a Big Sky championship. They went on an 11-0 run to open up the half, with nine of those points coming from the trio of D'shara Strange, Lauren Oosdyke and Kim Lockridge.
Those three players, none of whom are seniors, combined for 43 of the Bears' 51 points Friday, including 30 of the team's 33 second-half points.
After sitting out much of the first half because of foul trouble, Oosdyke was exceptional in the game's final 20 minutes. The junior scored all 16 of her points in the second half and grabbed all six of her rebounds after halftime, too.
Oosdyke's 16 points was a game-high for either team.
Strange, a sophomore, also played a key role in the Bears' success after recording yet another double-double with 15 points and game-high 12 rebounds.
Lockridge was the other member of the Northern Colorado trio that came up big in pushing the team to its first Big Sky championship game. She scored 12 points and nabbed seven rebounds and also scored the first four points of the second half to key the Bears' 11-0 run.
The Bears' defense was outstanding all game, as it held the Bobcats to just 27.1 percent shooting from the field and 17.4 perent shooting from behind the three-point arc.
The Northern Colorado defense needed to be that tough, as the offense struggled to find the basket in the first half against the Bobcats. The Bears scored just 18 points on 31.8 percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
As has become a nightly routine, Northern Colorado won the battle on the boards, also, outrebounding Montana State 43-34. It was the 16th time in the last 17 games against Big Sky opponents that the Bears dominated the glass.
"Rebounding we knew would be a big deal especially after we watched last night when Montana State had so many offensive rebounds against Montana," White said. "We knew that was going to be a big issue and we've talked about it the entire year exactly because of nights like tonight."
The Bears won't have to wait long to have a chance at an NCAA Tournament appearance, as they turn around and prepare to take on the tournament host and Big Sky regular-season champion Idaho State Bengals at 5 p.m. MT tomorrow night. The game will be broadcast on Altitude 2.
Altitude 2 information
- Altitude 2 is available as a full-time service through DirectTV (channel 682) and Dish Network (channel 441) and many cable-television service providers.
- Comcast Cable does not carry Altitude 2 as a full-time service, but provides select Altitude 2 games to their customers via CET (Comcast Entertainment Television). Late word on Saturday had the game NOT being broadcast on Comcast Denver area because of other programming commitments
- Dish Network does not carry Altitude 2 as a full-time service, but when bandwith is available Altitude 2 games are provided to customers on a Sports Alternate channel. These change on a game-by-game basis so check your on-screen channel guide.