Strange gets 1,000, Women win 11th straight at home
By HEATHER KENNEDY
GREELEY – Against the most aggressive defense in the Big Sky Conference, the Northern Colorado Women's Basketball team committed a season-low 11 turnovers en route to a 79-63 win over Sacramento State.
The Hornets (10-8, 5-4 Big Sky Conference) won the opening tip and had three chances at the basket on their opening possession, but the Bears' (9-9, 6-3 Big Sky) defense buckled down and didn't allow another offensive rebound the remainder of the first half. The offense also went on a 13-0 run and closed the half on a 19-5 run to enter the locker room with a 46-28 lead.
The Bears continued to shoot well through the majority of the second half, building a 31-point lead (75-44) on a layup by senior forward Hannah Thornton at the 5:38 mark, but the Hornets ended the game on a 13-0 run for the 79-63 final.
Junior guard D'shara Strange was a huge part of the offensive spark in the first half, as she scored 14 before the break. Strange opened the team's scoring with her signature fade-away jumper from the top of the paint and nailed a three-pointer with 16:41 on the clock to notch the 1,000th point of her career.
"The way (Sacramento State) plays is going to make us transition a little bit and make us find people on the floor a little bit more," Head Coach Jaime White said. "I thought (D'shara) had a good game all the way around. She passed well, but in the first half she really shot well. It was kind of what Lauren (Oosdyke) did in the first half against NAU, she just put the team on her shoulders and got those scores for us to let everybody get comfortable with the 100 mile-an-hour transition that they have."
Strange becomes the 18th player in Northern Colorado history and the seventh junior to score the lofty milestone. She is also the 10th active player in the Big Sky Conference to post her 1,000th career point and she now has 1,014 after ending the game with 18. The 1,014 points are the 16th most in school history.
Senior forward Lauren Oosdyke led all players with 21 points – leading the game in scoring for the second-straight contest. She also sank a career-best three 3-pointers on the afternoon, going 3-for-4 from beyond the arc.
Oosdyke, Thornton and junior forward Kim Lockridge all had eight rebounds each as the Bears out-rebounded the Hornets, 45-32. Thornton also scored in double figures for the fourth time this year with 10 points.
Also for the fourth time this year, the Bears recorded over 20 assists in a game, getting 23 on 31 made baskets. That total ties for the fifth-most in the school's Division I history. Oosdyke, Strange and sophomore guard Lindsay Mallon each had five assists to tie for the game-high, while Mallon's total is a new career-high.
"When your starters all have three or more assists, you're doing something right," White said. "The trick is, this team plays really well as a team. We can't just sit back and think that one player is going to take care of it. They've all got to be playing, whether it's assists or scoring."
Sacramento State was led in scoring by Takara Burse, who scored eight of her 12 points with a perfect day at the free throw line, 8-8. Senior forward Kylie Kuhns also hit double digits with 10 points, but the league's leading rebounder was kept to just one rebound – and that came with 11 minutes left in the game.
The two teams entered the game on Saturday afternoon with identical 5-3 conference records and tied for fourth place in the Big Sky standings. The win is the fifth straight for the Bears over the Hornets and stretches the team's home winning streak to 11 games – tied for the second-longest streak in school history.
Northern Colorado hits the road for a pair of games, playing at Idaho State on Thursday and Weber State on Saturday. The Bears defeated the two teams earlier in the year in Greeley.
"We've got to go out on the road and play more like the home Bears, rather than the road Bears," White said. "We've got to be more consistent."