CHENEY, Wash. – UNC’s women’s basketball team will put up its league leading 11-1 record against fourth place Eastern Washington at 3pm Saturday.
Game Links: Gameday Central | Northern Colorado Notes | Eastern Washington | Big Sky
Northern Colorado enters Saturday’s game looking for the road trip sweep, while Eastern Washington tries avoid to being swept at home.
The Bears are 11-1 in Big Sky play, coming off a 71-67 win against Idaho on Thursday night. Meanwhile, EWU is 8-4 in conference after dropping its game on Thursday to North Dakota 75-71.
Saturday’s game features two big time scorers in Savannah Smith (16.7 ppg) and Delaney Hodgins (17.9 ppg).
Scouting the Eagles
Eastern Washington is led by the triple threat of Delaney Hodgins, Tisha Phillips and Ashlie Payne. The trio combines to score 64.5 percent of the team’s points this season.
Hodgins leads the group with 17.9 ppg ranking first in the Big Sky. She is also averaging 6.7 rebounds a game. Payne leads the team in rebounding with 7.0 per game to go with her 11.9 points, and Phillips leads the team in assists with 3.5 a game and 14.8 points.
The Eagles are holding its opponents to 65.3 points a game, fourth best in the Big Sky. A big part of that number is the amount of steals they get on opponents, averaging 10.8. EWU turns its opposition over 18.8 times a game.
Coming into the season, Eastern Washington was picked to finish fifth by the coaches and fourth by the media.
Last Time Against Eastern Washington
Northern Colorado and Eastern Washington put on a shooting clinic during the first half going 51.6 percent and 60.9 percent from the field.
The second half was a different story though, as UNC struggled offensively. The Bears shot just 24.0 percent in the half, and ended up falling to the Eagles 66-57.
Kyleigh Hiser led all players in the game with 17 points, while teammates Savannah Smith (13) and Kourteney Zadina (12) joined her in double figures.
Last Time Out
• The inside-outside combo of Courtney and Savannah Smith proved to be deadly on Thursday night combining for 46 of UNC’s 71 points. UNC had a double figure lead during the third quarter, but a scoring drought allowed Idaho to stick around. It was the Smiths that sealed the deal on the Bears win, Courtney with a put back layup and Savannah a 3-pointer with just outside a minute left in the game.
Against the Big Sky
• UNC joined the Big Sky in the 2006-07 season and have gone 103-92 since then. All-time against Big Sky schools, the Bears are 115-130.
On This Date
• Northern Colorado has seen mixed results when playing on February 11th, overall going 8-6 on the date. The team has performed well away from home though posting a 6-2 record. The past two times UNC played on the date the team has won in overtime.
Month of February
• UNC has struggled at times when playing in February, holding a 150-168 all-time record. Recently they have performed well during the month though, going 7-1 during it in both the 2012-13 and 2014-15 season.
Off on the Right Foot
• UNC got out to its best start in conference play in program history this season. The 10-0 record to begin Big Sky play topped the previous best of 7-0 by the 1997-98 team in the NCC.
• Through 23 games played, the team has the best record in program history. The previous was 18-5 by the 1997-98 team.
Oh So Savvy
• Savannah Smith has had a strong season for the team, with her stat line reading, 16.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.7 apg and 1.8 spg. She leads the team in scoring.
• Smith has scored at least 20 points over the past six games, averaging 23.3 points in that span, hitting 4.7 3-pointers a game during that span. Against Idaho State, she hit six treys to tie the school’s DI record for made threes, and tied that mark against Southern Utah with another six.
• In the team’s first four games of the year she had a pair of 20 point games and has been in double figures in 18 of the team’s 20 games. She has also hit a pair of game-winning shots for the team inside the final 20 seconds of the game against San Diego and Eastern Michigan.
• Smith earned a trio of honors for her performance over the week of November 14-20. College Sports Madness named her both the Mid-Major and Big Sky Player of the Week, while the Big Sky Conference also gave her that honor. She earned the CSM Big Sky Player of the Week honor again for her performance over January 23-29.
• This year’s team has been a resilient group. Each time after losing this year they’ve come back and won their next game. In those games following a loss, the Bears have won by an average margin of 13.8 points.
20 Win Season
• The Bears are on the verge of their sixth 20 win season in program history. With a win on Saturday they will join the four previous teams to achieve that feat. The last team to record at least 20 wins, was the 2014-15 team with a program record 22. It would be the second team under head coach Kamie Ethridge to win 20 games.
Feed the Beast
• Courtney Smith has become quite the presence in the paint for Northern Colorado. She is averaging 25.6 minutes of play, ranks second on the team in scoring with 13.4 ppg and first in rebounding, grabbing 5.7 rpg.
• In Big Sky play, Smith is averaging 14.6 points per game. In the 12 games played she has scored 20 or more points three times and in double figures nine of the 12 games.
• Smith had a two game stretch recently when she shot 23-for-27 (85.2%) and averaged 26.0 points. She scored a career-high 28 points last Thursday night against NAU, with 16 of those points coming in the third quarter.
• Smith recorded her second career double-double against Sacramento State, when she had 23 points and tied her career-high with 10 rebounds. She was almost perfect shooting on the night, going 10-of-11 from the field and 3-of-3 from the free throw line.
• She had a career game against Colorado Christian, scoring 22 points on 10-of-16 shooting along with a career-high four blocks. She also grabbed eight rebounds and had a steal in the game. That performance helped her be named the College Sports Madness Big Sky Player of the Week.
• Smith has been an efficient scorer, shooting 59.5 percent for the year, ranking her first in the Big Sky and 17th in the NCAA.
Scorching the Nets
• In five of the team’s past six games, UNC has shot over 40 percent. During that span, the Bears recorded a 61.1 percent shooting performance at Weber State. It’s not just close shots either, they are averaging 9.5 3-pointers a game.
• Against Idaho State, Northern Colorado hit a season-high 14 3-pointers. It was two off the program’s DI record and four off the overall. They matched that mark at home against Southern Utah.
• The basket looked twice as big for the Bears at Weber State, where the team shot 61.1 percent. Courtney Smith led that charge for the team hitting 11 of her 12 attempts.
• Northern Colorado’s strong season has earned them recognition around the nation this season. UNC has been a constant in the Mid-Major Top 25 since first making the poll on November 29th. Since then the team has moved as high as No. 9. They are currently No. 11 in this week’s poll. The team also earned a vote in the AP Top 25 in January 30th poll. It was the first time in program history that they received an AP Top 25 vote.
• For Savannah Smith and Savannah Scott it has become habit to make a least one 3-pointer a game. Smith is currently on a streak of 15 straight games with a made three. Earlier this year she saw her streak of 10, including three games from last year snapped.
• Scott saw her streak of 18-games end against North Dakota on February 4.
• The Bears have turned into a tough defensive team, ranking near the top of the conference in scoring defense and defensive field goal percentage. The team ranks second in the Big Sky allowing just 61.6 points a game and third in field goal defense holding opponents to 37.2 percent.
• Against the Montana schools, the team forced 49 turnovers. Against MSU, the Bears ended up forcing the Bobcats into 28 turnovers, 11 via steals. It was the seventh time this season UNC forced its opponent into 20 or more turnovers.
• Northern Colorado’s defense shut down SUU in the second half on January 5th. The T-Birds were held to 14.3 percent shooting in the half, making just four baskets. In the fourth quarter UNC kept SUU to just seven points. For the game Southern Utah shot just 29.4 percent.
• During a three game stretch against Colorado Christian, Saint Mary’s, and Pacific, UNC has forced a combine 68 turnovers. Twenty three of those game against CCU, 22 against SMC, and 23 more at Pacific. Of those 68, 36 of them have come via steals.
• For the year, UNC has held its opponent below 60 points 11 times, and under 50 points four times.
• Against Colorado Christian the team put on a clinic at times, forcing 23 CCU turnovers, making 16 steals and holding the Cougars to 25.5 percent shooting. In the third quarter UNC kept them without a made field goal, and for the second half CCU shot just 9.1 percent.
Three Headed Monster
• Northern Colorado possesses a three headed monster that is tough to stop from scoring. The trio of Savannah Smith, Savannah Scott and Courtney Smith are all ranked in the Top 20 in the Big Sky in scoring. Smith leads the way with 16.7 points while Scott and Courtney Smith are not far behind with 13.2 and 13.4.
Big Sky offense
• Since Big Sky play began in the last week of 2016, UNC has put one of the best offenses on the court. The team is averaging 75.4 points per game to rank second in the conference, along with being second in field goal percentage at 45.6 and first in 3-point FG percentage at 40.0. Ball movement has been a big part of the success averaging 19.4 assists per game, and leading the Big Sky with a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Kiwi’s Complete Game
• Junior Kianna Williams can be a match up nightmare for opposing coaches to plan for. Her versatility allows her to guard multiple positions and play both inside and outside. She is averaging 5.8 points and 5.1 rebounds per game, along with 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals.
• Against Montana State, Williams had a strong game with 10 rebounds, eight points and three steals, but it was not in the box score that made the big impact. Her defense on one of the best players in the Big Sky was key in the win. She held Montana State’s Peyton Ferris to just 14 points after she was averaging 28.0 points per game in the past three.
•Williams recorded her first career double-double against Florida Gulf Coast with a 12 point, 12 rebound game. Williams also had a career-high six steals against Saint Mary’s.
Dishing It Out
• Since Kamie Ethridge took over the program in 2014, ball movement and assists have been a big part of the Bears identity. UNC has once again started to move its way to the top of the NCAA rankings in assists and assist to turnover ratio. Northern Colorado is averaging 18.0 assists a game and has an assist to turnover ratio of 1.22, ranking 10th and 23rd in the NCAA, respectively. Both marks rank first in the Big Sky
• In the game against Sacramento State on December 29, the Bears set a program DI record for assists in a game with 33. A third of those assists came from Savannah Scott, who had a career-high 11. Scott and the Bears followed that performance up with another 28 assists against Portland State, with Scott dished out another 11 of them.
• Against Colorado Christian on December 13, UNC had a season-high 25 assists. Eight of the 11 players that played in the game recorded at least one assist and four players had four or more. The Bears also helped its assist-to-turnover ratio with just six turnovers in the game.
Swiss Army Knife
• Need a job done? Better call Savannah Scott to get it done. She is Northern Colorado’s version of a Swiss Army Knife. Whether the team needs scoring, rebounding, good ball movement or good defense, she can do it all. Coming into this week’s games she is third on the team in scoring (13.2 ppg), and second in rebounds (5.5 rpg) and assists (3.4 apg) and minutes played at 30.7.
• She earned her second Big Sky Player of the Week honor for her strong play during the first week of conference season. Scott averaged a double-double with 17.0 points and 11.0 rebounds, along with 6.5 rebounds and 2.5 steals. She had a career-high 11 assists in both games.
• Savannah Scott enjoyed her trip back to Northern California scoring a career-high 27 points at Saint Mary’s and another 22 points against Pacific. In those games, she also averaged 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists a game to lead the team.
• She also added a 12 point, four assist and four rebound game against Colorado Christian to help her earn Big Sky Player of the Week Honors. It was the first time in Scott’s career that she earned the award.
• According College Sports Madness, the Bears will be heading to play a PAC 12 school in the NCAA Tournament. UNC is projected to play Stanford, as a No. 14 seed.
• Once again this year, UNC is proving you want to avoid fouling them. The team is leading the Big Sky with an 79.1 percent free throw percentage putting them sixth in the nation. Savannah Scott made her first 17 free throws this season, and ranks 23rd in the nation with an 87.7 free throw percentage.
• That strong free throw shooting became important in the win over Idaho as the team sunk all 10 of its free throw attempts in the four point win.
Class of Kath
• Katie Longwell is the team’s lone senior this season. So far in her senior campaign, she has been a valuable sixth man for UNC. She averages a team most 20.9 minutes off the bench. She averages 5.0 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
• She sparked the team after a slow start against Southern Utah at home, hitting a trip of 3-pointers during a 17-0 UNC run.
The Other Kiwi
• While Kianna Williams nickname is Kiwi, Northern Colorado has a true Kiwi on the team this year in Krystal Leger-Walker. The freshman guard comes to Greeley from Waikato, New Zealand. Leger-Walker brings plenty of international competition experience with her as she was on the New Zealand National Team this past summer, and competed for their 3 on 3 FIBA Championship team.
• She has started at guard for the team in all of their games, averaging 4.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.4 steals. Against Montana she matched her career-high eight assists that she previously had against UTSA.
Home Swwwwwwwwwweet Home
• After its first game of the season inside Bank of Colorado Arena, the Bears won 10 straight on their home court. The streak is the fifth longest in program history. The longest is 16 that expanded the 1996-97 season into the 1997-98.
Streaks Part II
• UNC has put together a pair of five plus game win streaks this season. The Bears went on a five-game win streak during the non-conference season, and then went on to tie the program record with an 11-game streak from the last game of non-conference play and through the first 10 games of Big Sky season. They tied the record of 11 straight wins with the 1997-98 team.
• Northern Colorado had its first undefeated month of January in program history. The Bears went 7-0 during the first month of the calendar year. It matched the best record without a loss in a month with the 1975-76 team’s February. The seven wins were one shy of the program’s record for wins in the month.
• The #RoadToReno begins on Thursday, December 29th in the Big Sky. Once again this year all 12 teams will compete in the Big Sky Conference Tournament in Reno, Nevada. This year’s tournament will take place from March 6-11, and be in conjunction with the men’s tournament during March 7-11. All of the men’s and women’s games will be played inside the Reno Event Center. Tickets are available now at UNCBears.com.
Strong Non-Conference Play
•Northern Colorado got out to its best start in non-conference play since the 2011-12 season. That year the team also won eight games during the non-conference season. Going into Big Sky Play, UNC has the most wins of any other team in the conference.
Party Like it’s 1998
• Savage Garden was atop the Billboard Top 100, Titanic was sweeping across the nation and the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers were preparing to play in Super Bowl XXXII the last time a Northern Colorado basketball team posted back-to-back 90 point games. That was until the week of December 26-January 2 when the Bears scored 95 against Sacramento State and 91 against Portland State. For the week the team shot 50.0 percent, hitting 17 3-pointers.
Centennial State Challenge
• The Bears finished its five-game Centennial State Challenge on Tuesday when they took on Colorado Christian. UNC finished those five games against other Colorado schools with a 3-2 record. They defeated CCU, Air Force and Denver, while falling to Colorado and Colorado State.
Strong Opening Month
• Northern Colorado went 5-1 in the opening month of play this year, matching a program best for wins in November. UNC has won five games in November two other times, 1996 and 1998. Since head coach Kamie Ethridge took over in 2014, the Bears are 13-4 in November.
• UNC has come up clutch throughout the year. In games decided by five points or less, the Bears are 6-0. Savannah Smith has two of the game-winning shots for the team, hitting the go-ahead shot against San Diego with 17 second left on November 20, and then having a 4-point play with 7.3 seconds left to tie and take the lead on Eastern Michigan on November 27.
Youth is Served
• Youth will be a theme for the 2016-17 UNC women’s basketball team as the roster features just three upperclassmen compared to eight underclassmen. Underclassmen have accounted for 60.8 percent of the playing time.
Deep on the Bench
• Northern Colorado has a deep bench it can tap into if needed this season. Through the team’s first eight games, the Bears 11 active players have seen action in at least five games this year. The team has been able to play all 11 of its players in nine games this year.
U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!
• Head coach Kamie Ethridge has plenty of international experience having been on the seven different USA national teams as a player, including the 1988 Olympic Gold winning team. That’s not the only international experience she has though, over the past two summers Ethridge has helped coach some of the USA’s national teams. She is just one of 48 current NCAA coaches to also coach for the United States.
• Ethridge will once again be helping coach the US team this summer when she is an assistant for the women’s U19 team at the FIBA World Cup.
• This past summer, Ethridge was an assistant coach on the U18 team that went on to win gold at the FIBA Americas in Valdivia, Chile.
• UNC inked a new Bear during the early signing period in November, bringing in Tiarna Clarke. Clarke will bring the team’s number of international players on the team to two as she comes to UNC from Albany, New Zealand. She is a 5’ 7” combo guard who like, Leger-Walker will bring plenty of international experience to the team.
Proving Them Wrong
• UNC will be out to prove the Big Sky Preseason poll wrong this season. Both the media and coaches poll picked the Bears to finish ninth this year. Idaho was the favorite in the coaches’ poll and Montana State in the media.
Succeeding Off the Court
• UNC women’s basketball team has not only been succeeding on the court, but also in the classroom. Last year seven players earned a spot on the Big Sky All-Academic team for having a cumulative GPA of over 3.2 and played in at least half of the team’s games.
What’s on Deck?
• Northern Colorado returns home for its final homestand of the year. The Bear host Weber State on Thursday at 7 pm, and then Idaho State Saturday, February 18 at 2 pm.
• Wanting to stay up to date on all things UNC women’s basketball? Make sure to follow the team on social media. We are on Facebook: /UNCBearsWBB, Twitter: @UNCBearsWBB and Instagram: UNCBearsWBB. Make sure to use the #Bearsketball as well, the official hashtag for the team.
UNC Bears Focus
• Back again this year is the UNC Focus presented by Advantage Bank. The UNC Focus is a weekly radio show. The Voice of the Bears Troy Coverdale will host it each Wednesday night on 1310 KFKA from 5pm-6pm.