MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

January 6, 2013

Dialing long distance: School-record 15 3s lead NSU women to victory

— TAHLEQUAH – Taylor Lewis seemed like a sure-fire lock to set a new career scoring mark. It never happened.

Instead, a plethora of other individual and team records went by the wayside on Saturday at Jack Dobbins Field House.

Lewis led all scorers with 26 points, and Northeastern State tied a school best with 15 made 3-pointers in an 85-57, wire-to-wire rout of Nebraska Kearney.

“We got off to a good start shooting the ball, and that starts with good movement,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “I think our kids shoot well when we move good on offense.”

The RiverHawks’ movement was close to pristine in what resulted in a season-high scoring effort and the highest scoring half of the season with 48 points in the opening 20 minutes.

Lewis spearheaded the offensive surge early on, totaling 21 points on 7 of 9 shooting (5 of 6 from 3-point range) in the first half. She ended the game 9 of 11 from the floor and 6 of 7 from deep.

“She’s come on strong and has been playing well,” Gipson said of Lewis. “Hopefully she can keep that up. People are going to be after her, but she’s a senior and I think she’s willing to accept the challenge.”

Paying closer attention to Lewis in the second half, Nebraska Kearney (4-7, 1-3 MIAA) limited the senior from Broken Arrow to a handful of points. But it was Lewis’ teammates that picked up the slack, offensively.

And Fontana Tate, Chelsey Stricklen and Taylor Collins made it look easy. Tate and Stricklen both notched career scoring highs – with 13 points apiece – and Collins poured in 12 points – two off her career-high.

“It’s nothing I strive for,” said Tate, whose previous scoring high was 11 against Lincoln earlier this season. “As long as we’re winning, I really don’t care. That’s the honest truth.”

Crediting NSU’s scoring balance for an opportunity to score a career high, Stricklen said, “Everybody on our team, I feel like, can go out and have a good day on any given day. That makes it a lot harder for other teams to defend us.”

Stricklen, Tate and Collins combined to go 11 of 22 from the field and 8 of 14 from 3-point range. Again, credit Lewis with some of that.

“Taylor is so efficient when she’s shooting the 3, and a lot of times that will draw way more attention to her,” Stricklen said of Nebraska Kearney’s box-and-one defensive effort on Lewis. “That tends to give other people open looks.”

As a team, NSU 54.7 percent (29 of 53) from the floor and 15 of 26 from distance.

“I think we passed the ball to the open person, and I think our kids are gaining confidence in each other,” said Gipson, whose team’s largest lead of the game was 35 early in the second half.

“They know if they move, they’ll get the ball. We just developed a good offensive rhythm.”

Leading Nebraska Kearney was Ivy Jones, who had 12 points on a 5-of-11 effort from the field. A trio of Lopers, Queen Ohamara, Shelby Zimmerman and Nicole Arp, all finished with 10 points each.

The RiverHawks, coming off an upset of No. 10 Fort Hays State on Thursday, won their third straight game and improved to 8-4 overall and 3-1 in league play.

Now, NSU will hit the road for three straight road games at Central Missouri on Wednesday, Southwest Baptist next Saturday and Central Oklahoma (Jan. 16).

“Road games are always tough, especially in the MIAA,” Stricklen said. “You’re not going to get an easy win on the road, so (this win) is some good momentum heading into those road games.”

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