GREELEY, Colo. - True fans call them barnburners; the back-and-forth affairs that have fans of both teams on the edge of their seats until the final buzzer sounds. That was the case inside Butler-Hancock on Thursday evening as the Northern Colorado women's basketball team overcame a five-point deficit with 5:23 remaining to defeat previously undefeated in league play Portland State, 72-68.
The Bears (9-8, 2-2 Big Sky) and Vikings (9-8, 3-1 Big Sky) were tied five times and saw 11 lead changes on the evening with the last tie coming at 62-62 with 2:41 remaining. Senior guard Whitley Cox hit a jumper for the Bears with 2:30 left and they never trailed again.
Sophomore forward Kaisha Brown scored in double figures for the second-straight game after tallying 16 at Idaho State last Saturday. She scored a career-best 21 points, including a red-hot 6-for-7 night from beyond the arc and she went 3-for-4 from the free throw line, including one with four seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Cox tallied her first double-double of the year and fifth of her career, leading all players in both categories with 22 points and 11 rebounds. It also marks the seventh game this season she has scored 20 or more. The last double-double for Cox came on Feb. 13, 2009 when she scored 15 and brought down 10 rebounds against Black Hills State. Her last double-double against a Big Sky Conference opponent was when she had 18 points and 14 rebounds against Montana State on Feb. 22, 2007.
"I think Whitley had a couple of huge shots behind the high pick," said Head Coach Jaime White. "Kaisha really came in and gave us a boost. I thought every single player played a solid game tonight. We've been talking about needing our bench to step up, we need that extra addition and Kaisha came up huge for us tonight. It was altogether a great team win."
Portland State was led by senior guard Claire Faucher with 19 points, all coming in the second half. Forward Kelly Marchant scored 15, while Lexi Bishop and Erin Yankus each tallied 10. Yankus also led the team with nine rebounds and Faucher had a game-high seven assists.
Northern Colorado ended the game shooting .463 from the field, including connecting on .577 in the second half. The Bears also hit .667 (6-for-9) from the three-point line and .696 (16-for-23) from the free throw line. Portland State shot .450 from the field and.500 in the second stanza to go along with .421 from three-point land (8-for-19), but hit just .545 from the charity stripe on the night (6-for-11).
The Bears' bench outscored the Vikings' 27-8 on the night, while NC also had nine second-chance points, compared to just two for PSU as NC won the rebound battle, 38-29.
Cox tied her season-high with seven rebounds in the first half, leading all players as the Bears held a 21-13 advantage on the boards after the first 20 minutes. Cox and Brown also each had eight points to lead the team.
With 9:38 in the first half, Portland State took a 10-point lead on a Marchant jumper, but the Bears used a 10-2 run to cut the lead to two and took the lead on a jumper by Cox at the 3:03 point, taking a 27-25 lead into the locker room at the half.
Northern Colorado will host Eastern Washington on Saturday night. The Eagles enter the contest with a perfect 4-0 mark in Big Sky action after defeating Northern Arizona 66-52 earlier this evening.