Dec. 5, 2012
Bearcats win MIAA opener against Lindenwood
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team made one subtle change in the opening minutes of the second half and that helped the Bearcats pull away from Lindenwood.
The Bearcats started scoring some easy baskets inside and that turned a close game into 69-40 rout over Lindenwood Wednesday evening at Bearcat Arena in the MIAA opener.
“It is very big, especially with this team,” said senior point guard Ashley Thayer about winning the conference opener. “We weren’t ranked very high. We want to show we are a team to be reckoned with.”
Northwest went into halftime with a slim, two-point advantage. They were infatuated with the three-point shot. It was hard passing up the shot.
“They were daring us to shoot threes,” Northwest coach Mark Kellogg said. “They weren’t even guarding us. We knew if we were going to score in the paint we needed to do it early in the offense.”
Even though three points is worth more than two, it is usually easier to score a few feet away from the basket as opposed to 20 feet, 6 inches.
The Bearcats used that simple logic and pounded the ball inside to sophomore Annie Mathews early in the second half and after a few baskets, everything opened up for Northwest.
“We were everywhere in the first half trying to see what worked,” Thayer said. “When we finally kind of settled in and doing what we were supposed to do and got it in, it worked for us.”
Perhaps, the key moment came with 15:40 left in the second half. The shot clock was clicking down. Thayer drove into the lane and delivered a beautiful bounce pass to Mathews who had an easy layup.
“I’m new at the point guard,” Thayer said. “I have never been a strong driver so I’m working on that. I just have to have the confidence to see the open player and get it to her.”
The play gave Northwest a 34-26 lead and all the momentum. Less than a minute later, Mathews received another nice pass inside. This time she was guard so she kicked it back out to Thayer who was wide open beyond the arc.
“It is playing off each other,” Thayer said. “You have to trust your teammates, knowing you give it to them, they are going to give it back to you. We definitely worked well as a team.”
A three-pointer is an easy shot for college players when it is unguarded. Thayer proved that by drilling the trey that increased the Bearcats lead to 42-28.
Several minutes later, Northwest built a 20-point advantage and was well on its way to winning its sixth game in eight contests. They have already matched their win total of last season.
“It is invaluable. We need every win we can get,” Northwest coach Mark Kellogg said. “I don’t want them to be satisfied either. That is the message I keep telling them.
“Someone came to me today and said if you win you’ve matched last year’s win total. I’m not comparing it to last year. We don’t want six wins. We want 20 wins or more. That is what we are trying to get to here.”
The Bearcats return to action with another conference game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Bearcat Arena against Nebraska Kearney. After nine days off, Northwest plays its final game of 2012 at home on Dec. 17 against Midland Lutheran.
“We were talking that this is a mini season before break,” Mathews said. “We want to go out winners. It is easier to go on break as a winner. I think it is a big game, definitely.”
Early in the game against Lindenwood, the Bearcats looked like they could beat Lindenwood with the outside jump shot. Junior guard Monique Stevens started the game with a three-pointer. Northwest held that lead until Lindenwood went in front 7-5.
Northwest didn’t regain the lead again until it was 16-14 on a field goal by Thayer. Lindenwood, though, went back in front because the Bearcats had a hard time getting into an offensive flow. The three-pointers just weren’t falling.
Mathews put Northwest ahead 24-22 late in the first half on an inside bucket and the trend for the second half started to develop.
The Bearcats went into halftime ahead 26-24 and never trailed again.
Mathews finished with 13 points and nine rebounds. Thayer scored 12 points and had four assists and freshman Tember Schechinger added 10.
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