GREELEY, Colo. – Home cookin’ has tasted mighty good for the Northern Colorado women’s basketball team this season.
The Bears boosted their record to 9-0 at Butler-Hancock Sports Pavilion with a 54-41 win over Montana in front of 1,209 fans Thursday night. The Lady Griz saw their five-game win streak come to a crashing halt with ice-cold shooting from the floor.
“It was our offense and their defense that cost us in this game,” Montana coach Robin Selvig told KMPT radio. “They’re very physical and very strong and play hard all the time. That’s why it’s always a knock-down, drag-out event when you come here.”
Montana shot 27 percent from the field (13 for 48) in falling to 10-3 in Big Sky Conference play, 16-6 overall. The Bears moved within a half game of the league-leading Lady Griz, improving to 9-3, 12-9.
Playing against the most stingy defense in the Big Sky, Montana’s offense looked good early. The Lady Griz held an 11-4 lead after 10 minutes behind five points by Kenzie De Boer and a nice boost off the bench, including a smooth hook shot by Ali Hurley sweeping across the lane.
Montana went into a funk from there, hitting just 2 of 11 shots leading up to halftime. But it still managed to take a 20-19 lead into intermission behind an 8-3 advantage in points from the foul line.
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“I thought we should have had more of a lead at halftime because our defense was good,” Selvig noted.
“We weren’t going to shut them down forever. They got some runs and went to the free-throw line in the second half and their defensive pressure and physical-ness hurt us. We need to be better.”
The Bears played like a different team after the break, turning up their intensity on both ends. Senior forward Lauren Oosdyke nailed a 3-ball to cap an 11-3 run, giving the hosts a 30-23 lead with 15:51 remaining.
De Boer, who led Montana with 15 points, hit a pull-up jumper and a 3-ball to pull her team within two, 30-28. Reserve guard Shanae Gilham then added a pair of free throws to knot the score and Northern Colorado appeared to have no answer for Montana’s 2-3 zone defense.
The game went back and forth from there and the Lady Griz were still very much in it after Hurley hit her second hook shot to pull UM within two, 36-34, with 8:08 left. Then it all came unraveled for the maroon and silver.
Sophomore guard Lindsay Mallon hit a critical 3-pointer on a rainbow from the right corner to stretch Northern Colorado’s lead to 39-34. It marked the start of an 11-2 run by the that included four points by junior guard D’shara Strange and sophomore center Stephanie Lee.
De Boer hit a much-needed trey to shave Montana’s deficit to 47-39 with 3:52 left. But Montana missed seven of its last eight shots and finished with an uncharacteristic 14 turnovers.
Lee paced the hosts with 16 points and nine rebounds. Oosdyke added 14 points and nine rebounds and Strange 13 points and eight boards.
De Boer was the only Montana player to score in double figures. Standout senior post Katie Baker was held to seven points on 3-for-14 shooting.
“I told them after the game it’s the little things,” Selvig said. “We had a little bit of that brain on fire tonight.”
“ ... You seldom find a way to win shooting in the 20s. It’s like pulling teeth.”
Northern Colorado shot 37.5 percent from the floor (18 for 48) and out-rebounded Montana, 38-34. The Bears also did a good job taking care of the ball with just 12 turnovers.
UNC finished with a 22-8 advantage in points in the paint and out-scored the Lady Griz at the line in the second half, 13-3. That negated Montana’s gaudy 17-2 edge in bench points.
Montana will try to get back on track Saturday afternoon at North Dakota and it won’t be easy. UND stunned visiting Montana State on Thursday, 62-55.
|NORTHERN COLORADO (54)|
|Halftime score: Montana 20, Northern Colorado 19.|
|3-point goals: UM 4-15 (Smith 0-1, Baker 0-2, Hill 0-2, De Boer 3-6, Cole 1-2, Hurley 0-1, Gilham 0-1). NC 2-8 (Mallon 1-2, Oosdyke 1-1, Lee 0-2, Timm 0-3).|
|Turnovers: UM 14 (Hill 3, Sullivan 3), NC 12 (Lee 3, Timm 3).|
|Blocked shots: UM 1 (De Boer), NC 4 (Lee 3).|
|Steals: UM 4 (Sullivan, Hill, Cole, Rickman), NC 8 (Timm 4).|
|Officials: Darla Foutz, Shelley Russi, Evan Sharples.|