Women pick up first-ever win at Idaho State
By HEATHER KENNEDY
GREELEY – In a seesaw affair that saw five ties and 12 lead changes, the Northern Colorado Women's Basketball team took the most important lead – the final one – winning 50-49 at Idaho State on Thursday night.
The Bears (10-9, 7-3 Big Sky Conference) defeated the Bengals (11-9, 6-5 Big Sky) for the first time in Pocatello, snapping a seven-game losing skid and in the process, also earned their first-ever regular season sweep over ISU.
Junior guard D'shara Strange (Fort Carson, Colo.) gave the Bears that final lead, scoring the team's final six points of the night, including a jumper with seven seconds left for the 50-49 score. Idaho State senior guard Kaela Oakes had a chance to win the game for the Bengals, but missed both of her free throws with 1.7 seconds on the clock and sophomore guard Lindsay Mallon (Lone Tree, Colo.) grabbed the rebound to secure the Bears' second road win of the year.
"We did a good job inside," Head Coach Jaime White said. "I just thought we had to win ugly here and the reality is I hate to see it end that way, but we knew Oakes missed a couple of free throws earlier and I thought 'Oh my gosh, get a rebound because otherwise this might be coming down to overtime.' And Lindsay Mallon grabbed it and had 10 on the night – that's huge.
"We got into some unlucky foul trouble early," White said. "The best part about it is we've been in it before and we've been in it on the road before and we haven't responded and I thought tonight we were just ready to respond."
Strange led the team in scoring, but it was the play of the bench that made all the difference inside Reed Gym. Sophomore center Stephanie Lee (Casper, Wyo.) scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the first half and ended the night with 13 points as well as two blocked shots. Senior forward Hannah Thornton (Dublin, Ireland) also scored in double figures with 11.
"I thought the kids coming off the bench, Steph Lee and Hannah Thornton, did an amazing job when we had people in foul trouble. Steph came in with just a focus and we thought the post was somewhere we could attack the basket. Hannah Thornton once again -- she's just efficient. She gets in there, she's hard to move and if she keeps her balance, she's money."
Mallon led all players with 10 rebounds and four assists as the Bears' continued to dominate on the boards, winning the rebound battle, 48 to 36. The Northern Colorado defense also surrendered just one second-chance point and allowed just 10 Idaho State points in the paint.
Northern Colorado shot .345 from the field, but just .067 from the three-point line, making just 1-of-15, but the team hit 9-of-12 free throws for .750. The defense held Idaho State to a .278 shooting percentage and the Bengals struggled from the free throw line, connecting on just .583 (14-for-24) in the game.
"We shoot 6.7 percent from the three and who even cares?" White said with a laugh. "I thought defensively we did a good job and this was really a great team win."
The Bears hope to keep the momentum going, playing at Weber State on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats lost to North Dakota 56-51 earlier in the evening to fall to 0-20 on the year and 0-11 in Big Sky play. Game time Saturday is scheduled for 2 pm.