January 2, 2014

Women's basketball goes down to the wire... again

By HEATHER KENNEDY
UNCBears.com

FARGO, N.D. – As they always seem to do this season, the game went down to the final seconds for the Northern Colorado women's basketball team, and this time the Bears came out on top, winning their final non-conference game of the year, 74-70 at North Dakota State on Thursday evening.

The Bears (6-5, 0-2 Big Sky) defense came up big in the win, holding the Bison (3-11) without points the final 4:14 of the contest and to just 28 rebounds in the game. It was the team's first-ever win in Fargo, snapping a 15-game losing streak at the home of the Bison.

"I thought at halftime if we get a couple of stops and made some baskets, we would be okay," Head Coach Jaime White said. "I thought our kids responded in a big way from the last two games. A simple thing like blocking out is a miracle thing."

For the seventh time this season, junior center Stephanie Lee (Casper, Wyo.) topped the 20-point scoring milestone, and while she was at it, she went ahead and topped the 30-point barrier for the second time as well, scoring a career-high 34.

"Steph's a strong kid – she may look thin – but to get hit as much as she does and still finish – she's got to have some muscle in there," White said.

A big reason for Lee's success was junior guard Lindsay Mallon (Lone Tree, Colo.) getting her the ball. Mallon recorded a career-high in assists with eight and she was second on the club with seven rebounds.

"Lindsay's probably one of our most competitive kids and she will do whatever it takes to win the game, White said. "Tonight she knew the high-low pass would do it and Steph should probably make Lindsay dinner at least three times this week."

Lee's 34 points are the second-highest single game total in the school's Division I history, behind the 37 by Danielle Hagen against Portland State in the first round of the 2008 Big Sky Conference Tournament and her 14 field goals tie Hagen's record.

Lee was the only Bear in double figures in scoring, but sophomore guard Jamie Derrieux (Grand Junction, Colo.) scored nine, including six straight in the first half, and both senior Molly Duehn (Burnsville, Minn.) and junior Amber Van Deudekom (Brea, Calif.) added eight each.

Senior forward Kim Lockridge (Littleton, Colo.) continued to rebound well, grabbing a game-high 10. It's the third time in the last four games she's posted double figures.

"I thought we had good play off the bench," White said. "We need those two or three baskets from each of those players. Both (Rebecca Howell) and Amber making those shots were huge and Kim came up with some huge rebounds at the end. I thought our whole team played great tonight."

A problem in the last two games, turnovers, was not an issue at the Bison Sports Arena, as the Bears recorded just 12 in the game and had a +10 assist-to-turnover ratio as they recorded 22 – the third time this year above the 20-assist plateau.

The post players established the inside game early for the Bears as Lockridge, Lee and Howell scored the first 17 points for UNC. Derrieux scored the next six as the team's traded buckets and the lead. The Bears built a five-point lead, 34-29 off a Kourteney Zadina (Seward, Neb.) three-pointer and took a three-point lead into the locker room at the half, 37-34.

In the second half, the Bears opened up a 10-point lead, 52-42, with 13:57 left on a three-point play by Lee, but an 8-1 NDSU run closed the gap to one, 57-56 at the 10:01 point. The two teams went back-and-forth the remainder of the game, but the Bears scored the final five over the last 4:14 for their sixth win of the year.

Northern Colorado remains in North Dakota, going to Grand Forks to face North Dakota for the second time in three games. The teams take the court at 1 p.m. MT on Saturday.

"They count on those second chances," White said on North Dakota. "We've got to play hard together and get a body on them and box out."