Jan. 30, 2014
Bearcats grab MIAA road victory
By David Boyce
ST. CHARLES, Mo. - As well as Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team shot the ball, it was the defensive intensity and passion the Bearcats played with throughout that was most impressive.
The Bearcats never trailed in beating Lindenwood 70-59 Thursday evening at Hyland Arena in game they absolutely needed.
The victory lifted Northwest to 6-12 overall and 3-8 in the MIAA.
In resounding fashion, the Bearcats proved they no longer resemble the team that lost 80-74 at home to Missouri Southern a little over a week ago.
“I have to give a little props to this team because after the Missouri Southern loss, they got together in the locker room,” Northwest coach Michael Smith said. “They knew how much they let down in that game. Honestly, we have had great practices since then. I felt like our energy and focus the last few days of practice has been the best it has been all year.
“I told our kids that we have nine games left and that is it. You are going to miss this. You need to enjoy each other and the opportunity to put on this uniform for at least nine more games. I felt like we played as a team tonight. People contributed in different ways.”
Northwest wants to carry this momentum into its next game when it returns to action 1:30 p.m. Saturday against Lincoln at Bearcat Arena.
After playing a solid first half against Lindenwood, it was important for Northwest to show it could put together two strong halves. The Bearcats did exactly that, getting baskets from Annie Mathews and Ashleigh Nelson at the start of the second half that boosted Northwest’s lead to 42-32.
“A lot of us are sick of losing,” said Stevens, who finished with 15 points. “It is really hard on you. Coming out here and getting a road win and everybody contributing was really big for us.
“It should show everybody in the MIAA that we can compete when everyone is a part of it.”
Northwest maintained a double-digit lead through most of the second half. When Lindenwood closed to 46-38, sophomore Tember Schechinger drilled a three-pointer, giving the Bearcats a 51-38.
“This victory feels awesome,” said Schechinger, who scored 14 points. “It gives us that feeling that we are going to finish strong.”
Schechinger played aggressive the entire game. She looked for her shot, took it and made it.
It was a complete team effort by the Bearcats. Every player who stepped on the court contributed in a positive way. Mathews pulled down 10 rebounds, Nelson scored 16 points and Ariel Easton had a couple of key drives to the basket in the first half.
Every player made at least on significant play, including freshman forward Ashley Guenther, who came off the bench and hit 15-foot jumper that gave Northwest a 32-21 lead.
“It was all about keeping the energy the whole time,” Schechinger said. “We are just working as a team. It feels really good that we are all coming together.”
In the last 10 minutes, the game was never in doubt. The Bearcats built a 65-48 lead with under 5 minutes left.
Northwest was able to maintain its double-digit lead because the Bearcats hit their free throws down the stretch. Stevens led the way.
“Free throws were the dagger at the Missouri Southern game,” Smith said. “We go 26 for 31 from the free throw line tonight, and Monique Stevens went 9 for 9.
“We got some big stops when we needed them. Our team made adjustment at halftime how to defend their leading scorer and they listened.”
Northwest played one of its best half in conference play and went into halftime with a 38-32 lead. It could have been more if Lindenwood didn’t finish the first half making three, 3-pointers.
From the start, the Bearcats came out with energy. It helped that Nelson drained the first basket of the game, a 3-pointer. Easton followed with a basket, giving Northwest a quick 5-0 lead.
The Bearcats never trailed, and when they were challenged, they responded. The first came when Lindenwood tied the game at 7-7 and 10-10. Each time Northwest went back in front with a three-pointer.
Northwest put together a nice stretch when it expanded its lead from 15-12 to 24-14. Schechinger gave the Bearcats a 10-point lead when she drained a three-pointer, got a steal near midcourt and raced down the court for a layup.
The Bearcats twice held 11-point leads. The last one came at 34-23 on a basket by Mathews.
Aside from giving up the 3-pointers in the final couple of minutes in the first half, the Bearcats excelled at both ends of the court. They shot 52 percent from the field while holding Lindenwood to 42 percent. Northwest also held the rebounding edge 18-14.
“In our warm ups, we had lots of energy and that just carried into the game,” Stevens said.
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