February 21, 2013

Women's Basketball wins ninth straight behind strong defense

By ZACH BOND
UNCBears.com

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Behind a smothering defensive effort, the Northern Colorado women's basketball squad managed to pull out its ninth consecutive win and remain tied atop the conference after a 44-41 win over North Dakota on Thursday night at the Betty Engelstad Center.

As mentioned, the win was the Bears' ninth straight and moved their Big Sky mark to 13-3, tied for the best in the league with Montana. Overall, Northern Colorado is 16-9. The win was also Northern Colorado's fifth straight on the road.

The key to victory came in the form of some stifling, havoc-wreaking Northern Colorado defense. For the game, the Bears held UND to just 40 percent shooting from the field, including 33 percent in the second half. Behind the arc, Northern Colorado's defense was even better, holding North Dakota to 27.8 percent three-point shooting.

The real difference though came in the way the Bears forced North Dakota into so many uncomfortable situations that eventually led to turnovers. For the game, the Bears caused 26 total turnovers, leading to 18 Northern Colorado points.

The turnover story actually looked awfully similar to the first time these two teams met up, as in that one, another low-scoring Northern Colorado win, the Bears forced 33 North Dakota turnovers.

The game was tight throughout and came down to the final minutes. With the score tied at 41-41, the Bears got the go-ahead bucket from junior Kim Lockridge (Littleton, Colo.) with 2:13 left in the game. Lockridge's jumper would prove to be the game's final field goal.

The two-point advantage proved to be all the Northern Colorado defense needed, as it forced three North Dakota missed shots and a turnover in the game's final two minutes.

Junior D'Shara Strange (Fountain, Colo.) gave the Bears their final three-point lead by sinking 1-of-2 free throws with six seconds left.

Northern Colorado actually had to battle from behind early in this one, as North Dakota scored the game's first eight points to jump out to an early lead. From there though, the Bears answered the eight straight with a 9-2 run of their own to tighten things back up.

North Dakota was able to build the only double-digit lead of the game early in the second half, stretching things out to 31-21 with more than 17 minutes remaining in the game. The largest lead Northern Colorado held was six. That lead came at the 7:30 mark of the second half.

The Bears finished the night shooting 31.5 percent from the field and 25 percent from the three-point line. It was a testament to their defense that they still pulled out a tough road win despite struggling from the field.

Junior Molly Duehn (Burnsville, Minn.) led the way for Northern Colorado, scoring a team-high 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting. She did most of her damage from behind the arc, making 3-of-6 from long range. She scored eight of her 12 points in the first half.

senior Lauren Oosdyke (Coto de Caza, Calif.) and Strange, who both played all 40 minutes of the game and finished with 11 points each, were the other two players to finish in double figures.

Strange finished with those 11 points to go along with eight rebounds. She shot 4-of-16 from the field, but did make 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. She also racked up three steals and blocked a shot, while also dishing out three assists.

Oosdyke also notched 11 points and eight rebounds. She shot 4-of-11 from the field and made 1-of-3 from three-point land. Like Strange, she also nabbed three steals and dished out four assists.

The loss dropped North Dakota to 5-12 in Big Sky play and 10-16 overall. UND was led by Nicole Smart, who scored a game-high 14 points and made 4-of-8 3-pointers.

Next up for the Bears is a chance to finally get home after a very successful three-game road trip. Northern Colorado will have an opportunity to play its next three games in front of the Butler-Hancock faithful and with only four conference games remaining and the Bears still in a battle for first place, they will be sure to be looking for some home cooking.

They start the crucial home stand at 2:05 p.m. (MT) on Saturday, Feb.2 3 as Southern Utah comes to Greeley.