February 3, 2010

Cox Buzzer Beater Gives Bears State Bragging Rights

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DENVER, Colo. - Northern Colorado senior guard Whitley Cox hit a buzzer-beater in the middle of the lane to score a career-best 32 points and give the women's basketball team bragging rights in the state as the best team, lifting the Bears to a 74-72 win at Denver on Wednesday night.

Cox also had a team-best seven rebounds, six in the second half to lead the team and tie for game-high honors.

"Cox was really in rhythm tonight," said Head Coach Jaime White. "You could see it in her eyes that she wanted it tonight. She was able to elevate, able to withstand the physical play from Denver and able to go to the basket."

The Bears saw a 10-point lead with 2:24 (71-61) dwindle to the fifth tie of the game with six seconds left at 72-72. White called her final timeout with the team at midcourt.

"I knew we had time to run a play," White said. "I called three (plays) and then just said give it to Whitley and clear out. What a great coach I am, huh?"

Cox got plenty of help in the scoring column from sophomore forward Kaisha Brown, who posted 16 and junior guard Courtney Stoermer with 11.

Prior to the game, the Bears were 0-10 entering the locker room trailing at the half, but the streak ended as the team outscored the Pioneers 43-36 in the second stanza after trailing 36-31 at the break.

Denver was led by Kaetlyn Murdoch and Brianna Culberson with 22 each, while Sarah Feeney came off the bench to score 14 and Ashly Robinson added 10. Emiko Smith also tallied a game-best 13 assists and four steals, while Murdoch had seven boards.

"I'm proud of how the team played in the second half," said White. They love the press and to get those steals. I thought we could change up the pace in the second half by pressing more and it seemed to work. The reality is we can even play better than this."

Northern Colorado shot a season-best .529 from the field for the game, including .571 from the three-point line (8-14). The team continued its struggles from the free throw line however, hitting just .600 (12-20).

Cox became the seventh player in the Big Sky Conference this season to score 30 or more as she surpassed her previous career-best tally of 31 from last season against Montana State on Jan. 22, 2009. She also moved into eighth all-time in career assists with two in the game to bring her career total to 245. She is one of two active players on the list as Stoermer had three on the night to give her 276 which ranks fifth on the list.

Cox scored 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to lead all scorers at the break. Fernandez led the game with four rebounds and four blocked shots and she also chipped in six points. The main difference in the first 20 minutes was Denver did a better job taking advantage of turnovers as they had 15 points off turnovers compared to just four for the Bears.

There were several big runs by each team in the game, as Denver had an 11-0 and 15-2 run in the first half, while the Bears went on a 10-2 run in the first half and 16-2 in the second half.

Free throws down the stretch could have extended it even more," said White. "We really needed this one to get some confidence back, especially heading into the second half of Big Sky play and going into Northern Arizona which is always a tough place to play."

The game at Northern Arizona on Saturday is a 6:35 start and can be seen on Universityhouse, Dish channel 9411.

Notes:
In the first half, senior guard Lizzie Cooper recorded her 60th steal... Junior center Brittany Fernandez tallied a career-best four blocked shots in the first half, matching the season game high for any NC player... Senior guard Whitley Cox led all players with 18 points in the first half. It is the most she has scored in the first half, bettering her 15 point output from the game against Colorado State... Northern Colorado is a perfect 3-0 against instate Division I opponents this season, defeating Air Force, Colorado State and Denver... Cox moved into eighth on the all-time assists list and fourth on career scoring. She now has 245 assists and 1,432 points... Cox also tied the school record for career games played at 113, knotting Danielle Hagen (2003-08) and Kara Ketterer (1996-00)... Sophomore forward Kaisha Brown hit at least three three-pointers in a game for the seventh time this season as she went 4-for-6 from beyond the arc.