UCCS women improve to 4-1 with win over Tarleton State
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The University of Colorado Colorado Springs' tour through some of the nation's best women's basketball programs continued Saturday as the Mountain Lions, behind 20 points by Jessica Brown, defeated the Tarleton State TexAnns 73-62 at Brownson Arena.
Four of UCCS' first five opponents this season, including Tarleton State, have been listed among the "others receiving votes" in the national poll. Tarleton State had been ranked No. 20 in the preseason poll but slipped out this past week.
"It's a great win for us," said UCCS coach Corey Laster. "I was happy to get out of there against a team like that with a win. They were ranked No. 20 for a reason.
"We should have some confidence coming out of this kind of preseason."
The Mountain Lions improved to 4-1 for the season and 3-1 away from home.
The tour continues next week as UCCS opens the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference portion of its schedule on Friday at No. 4 Fort Lewis. The Mountain Lions finished the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Classic with a 2-0 record and a share of the tournament title with host Colorado Mesa.
"Conference play is not going to be easy with the first half on the road," said Laster, whose team will open RMAC play with seven of its first nine games on unfriendly courts. "Purposely I wanted to go on the road quite a bit with the nonconference schedule to get used to that. We'll take the wins that we've had."
And maybe Saturday's most of all. UCCS overcame a 10-point first-half deficit and trailed by as many as seven in the second half.
Down 49-42 with 9:38 left, the Mountain Lions got a 3-pointer by Lauren Wolfinger, who then stole the ball at the defensive end. UCCS converted the turnover into points as Danielle Brown found Abby Kirchoff for a back-door layup to cut the gap to two. Shortly afterward, Jessica Brown found a gap in the defense and drove down the lane for the game-tying basket.
It was tied at 51 with 6:15 left when Jessica Brown stepped in front of a Tarleton pass and took it coast-to-coast. The teams exchanged single free throws before Kirchoff was hammered while driving baseline. The freshman made both free throws to put UCCS up 56-52. Both Brown twins added field goals to give the Mountain Lions a 60-52 lead with 2:39 remaining.
UCCS made 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch to keep the TexAnns from mounting a comeback.
Jessica Brown added five rebounds, two blocked shots and a team-best three assists to her stat line.
"Before the game, coach pulled me aside and told me I needed to be more aggressive today," she said. "When I saw an opening, I was going."
Sister Danielle added 14 points and four steals. Sammie Gentile had 13 points and five boards, while Kirchoff had 11 points.
"Sammi Gentile had a great weekend for us; her presence down low was huge," said Laster. "Same way with the twins, they're difficult to cover off the dribble."
Laster used his bench extensively, particularly in the first half, and the TexAnns appeared to wear down late in the game. One of those reserves, Lauryn Near, came off the bench to grab a team-best six rebounds in just 10 minutes.
"Lauryn Near's minutes in terms of rebounding coming in for Ashley (Miller) were huge," said Laster. "That depth for us is paying dividends."
Morgan Stehling and Shelby Adamson each scored 15 points to lead Tarleton State (2-4).
Tarleton State scored on six of its first seven possessions to take a 13-9 lead through the game's first five minutes. UCCS also struggled keeping the more physical TexAnns off the offensive glass and was a step slow defensively, giving up ten free throws through the first 11 minutes.
The result was that Tarleton State built a 26-16 lead at the 6:26 mark of the first half.
The Mountain Lions responded by forcing turnovers on four of the next five possessions and turned them into a 3-pointer plus layups by Danielle Brown and Lauryn Near plus a pair of free throws by Jessica Brown to close to within one at 28-27. The teams went into the intermission tied at 32.
Despite the challenging schedule, the Mountain Lions' 4-1 opening matched the 2007-08 season for the best start ever by a UCCS women's basketball team.
"I like this nonconference schedule," said Laster. "We saw a lot of different types of looks and grew up in some ways."
And, as he pointed out previously, his team had built some confidence.
"We can play with whoever we want to play with," said Jessica Brown.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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