Friday, December 10, 2010

'Cats need overtime, but run record to 7-0 with 65-62 win over Western Washington

ROHNERT PARK – Never mind that the Chico State women’s basketball team played a nationally-ranked team Friday without its two leading scorers. It made no difference that the ’Cats played a good portion of the contest with three or four freshmen on the floor at the same time. The No. 17 Wildcats, though stumbling at the end of regulation, flat out refused to lose in the opening game of the CCAA/GNAC Challenge, winning the battle of unbeatens by defeating No. 14 Western Washington 65-62 in overtime at Sonoma State’s Wolves’ Den.  

The win improved Chico State’s season record to 7-0, making this year’s edition of the Wildcats just the third team in the program’s history to win its first seven games of the year. With Friday’s loss, Western Washington fell to 5-1 on the season.    

Taylor Lydon scored a career-high 12 points and hit the 3-pointer in overtime that put the Wildcats ahead for good.
Molly Collins turned in her best game ever as a Wildcat, leading the team with 17 points and nine rebounds, both career highs. Taylor Lydon also scored a career-best 12 points, while Jazmine Miller contributed nine points to Chico State’s winning effort. Lauren Hefflin paced Western Washington with 12 points to go along with six rebounds; Kristin Schramm chipped in with nine points for the Vikings.

Both teams started slowly to open the first half; with Western Washington on top 6-4, Collins drilled two jumpers and a pair of free throws to give Chico State a 10-6 lead. The Vikings answered by scoring 11 of the next 12 points – with two Erika Ramstead 3-pointers leading the charge, Western Washington went up 17-11. The Wildcats came back with a 6-0 run – a Katie Girten jumper, McKenzie Dalthorp layup and two Analise Riezebos free throws knotted up the score at 17-all. A three-point play by Collins and a Courtney Harrison 3-pointer kept Chico State close, but with the Vikings ahead 25-23, Western Washington went on a 7-2 run to extend its lead to 32-25. Riezebos and Kristin Marquardt converted layups in the final minute of the first half to cut the deficit to three, and the Vikings had to be content with a 32-29 lead at intermission.

The Wildcats came roaring out of the gate to begin the second half, scoring 11 straight points courtesy of a Marquardt free throw, layups by Collins and Courtney Hamilton and 3-pointers by Miller and Lydon, giving Chico State a 40-32 lead. A Britt Harris layup stopped the Wildcat run, but the ’Cats responded by reeling off eight unanswered points – Miller scoring on a layup, and Harrison and Girten knocking down 3-pointers – to extend Chico State’s advantage to 48-34. The Wildcats were still up by 12 with 6:30 to play when Western Washington went on a 9-0 run to pull to within 56-53. A Miller layup pushed Chico State’s lead back to five, but three Viking free throws and a Schramm layup tied the game at 58-all with 1:21 to go. Though the Wildcats missed several layup opportunities to go back out in front, the contest was still deadlocked with 12 seconds to play, with Chico State having a chance to win in regulation – but Hamilton missed a layup at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.

A Hefflin layup gave Western Washington a brief 60-58 lead at the start of OT, but Lydon put Chico State in front with a 3-pointer, and a Collins layup made the score 63-60. The Vikings delivered a layup to make the score 63-62, but a turnaround jumper by Marquardt pushed the ’Cats lead to three with less than a minute to play. Western Washington had a last-second chance to tie the contest, but Amanda Dunbar missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, and Chico State escaped with the hard-fought 65-62 victory.

Chico State wraps up the CCAA/GNAC Challenge Saturday with a chance to become the first women’s basketball team in school history to win its first eight games, but the Wildcats are faced with another big challenge when it takes on Seattle Pacific in a rematch of last season’s NCAA West Region final. Tipoff is scheduled for 5 p.m.; the game will be broadcast on ESPN Radio 101.7 FM and 1340 AM locally, as well as on the Internet via the Wildcat Athletics website.

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