January 19, 2012

Brown shoots way to record and win over Montana

GREELEY – The Northern Colorado women's basketball team gave Head Coach Jaime White a great birthday present: the first-ever victory over Montana in Greeley.

The 59-42 victory was just the second in school history over the Lady Griz (10-8, 3-2 Big Sky) and the Bears (12-7) move into a three-way tie for second-place in the Big Sky Conference standings at 4-2.

"I'm not sure what we are on my birthday, but I think we're pretty good. On all 21 of my birthdays," White said with a laugh.

In fact, the Bears are 2-0 in Big Sky play on Jan. 19 as they also won 61-56 over Portland State in 2008. That year was also the first-ever win over the Vikings in conference play.

The 823 fans in Butler-Hancock were treated to several highlights on Thursday evening as senior forward Kaisha Brown nailed three three-pointers to break the Northern Colorado career record and sophomore D'shara Strange hit junior Lauren Oosdyke on a no-look behind-the-back pass on a fast-break layup with 15:48 to play in the second half.

Brown hit back-to-back triples in the first half to tie Courtney Stoermer (2007-11) for the record with 177. Her second long-ball gave the Bears a 13-4 advantage at 12:44 and both were part of a 15-2 run. Her record-breaking three-pointer came on her third attempt from beyond the arc at 4:39 in the first half to give her team a 26-9 lead. She ended the night with 13 points and stayed perfect from the free throw line in conference play (12-for-12) after sinking all four attempts.

"It was all passing," said Brown when asked about her record. "My teammates moved the ball around in the zone and that's what really helped me, they got me open. I've never really thought about being number one. It's not anything you really think of when you think about playing Division I basketball but it's kind of nice to go out on top."

"It's pretty cool," Brown said when asked what it's like to break a former teammates record. "Courtney was a great 3-point shooter but that wasn't her main game. She's got all those steals records and all those assists. It's just kind of what we did. Most of my three's are by assists from Courtney so it's kind of cool to be right there with someone's record you played with."

Oosdyke led the scoring with 20 points and had a game-high five assists. Strange recorded a career-best 15 rebounds and chipped in 11 points for her fifth double-double of the year and her third in Big Sky play. She and junior Victoria Timm also each had three steals and a blocked shot to lead the team.

"I don't think {Montana} got an offensive rebound in the second half and I'll take that any day," said White. "They had either six or eight in the first half, so either way it's very important. Katie Baker went on an offensive rebounding rampage at the end of the first half and it felt like those were the only points they scored – were off those offensive rebounds, so I think our kids just took that to heart and said 'No way, not again' and went back out there."

White was correct once again as Montana didn't record an offensive rebound in the second half and they brought down just eight on the defensive end. The Bears out-rebounded the Lady Griz 45-27, a difference of 18. That is the second-biggest margin on the boards this year, just one off the 19 against UC Irvine. The 27 rebounds is also the lowest recorded by Montana this year and both season lows have come in Colorado as Denver held them to 31.

The Bears also held Montana to 42 points, the lowest offensive output since scoring 34 in the 2010-11 season opener at UC Riverside. The Lady Griz missed their first 15 three-pointers of the game and ended 4-for-25 (16%) and shot just .267 from the field.

On the flip side, Northern Colorado shot slightly above its season average, connecting on .449 from the floor, as well as 50 percent from the three-point line (5-of-10). The Bears also continued their recent trend of shooting well from the free throw line as the team made 10-of-12.

 "I thought we were patient," said White. "We went inside at first and then recognized when we could go outside. Kaisha's back-to-back three's were huge. What that says to another team is you cannot sink in on our post players and expect us to miss three's – especially in our own gym."

In the last two games, Northern Colorado has allowed opponents to score just a combined 33 points (17 at Eastern Washington, 16 vs Montana) in the first half.

"Defensively, to keep them to 16 points in the first half, that's a big deal," said White. "I often wonder why we can't do that in the second half, but I'll take what happens. I felt like we were solid defensively all night. We always know it's going to be physical. Our posts did a good job of sealing and I thought we finished with a lot of physicality on us."

Northern Colorado meets one of the two teams tied in the Big Sky standings in Montana State on Saturday at 2:05 pm (Eastern Washington is the other). The two teams split the regular season meetings a year ago with each team winning on its home court.

"We're going to keep working hard and hope every game is like this one," concluded White.