CNHI News Services
Chelsey Stricklen, Fontana Tate and Sarah Green all found a way to maximize their offensive output on Tuesday night.
The trio — which combined for only 15 points — hit consecutive 3-pointers midway through the second half to help propel the RiverHawks to a wire-to-wire, 64-48 victory over Northwest Oklahoma State at Jack Dobbins Field House.
“They played a hard pressure game, and I don’t think we responded to it real well and had a hard time staying in our offense,” NSU coach Randy Gipson said. “In spurts, I think our kids did finally respond there in the middle of the second half.”
With the Rangers hanging around at the 13:19 mark of the second half, Stricklen buried a trey from the left wing to give the RiverHawks a 43-38 advantage. Twenty-five seconds later, Tate did the same, and just like that, NSU was up eight (46-38).
Then, Green — not known for her long-range shooting ability — followed suit with her only 3-point attempt of the contest, which she drained to give NSU a 49-38 edge.
“That was very important,” said NSU’s Tosha Tyler, who led the RiverHawks with 15 points on 5 of 6 shooting from the field. “It seemed that every time we would score and get up eight or nine, they would come back and were always responding. But (those made 3-pointers) were the final gap we had to make before they quit coming back so much.”
Northwestern Oklahoma State coach Eric Bozeman knew NSU’s shooting prowess would appear at some point.
“That was a huge blow, but that’s what they do,” said Bozeman, whose club dropped to 0-3. “We chased ‘em all night and fought them all night, but they [were] 23rd in the country and their coach does a heck of a job, and I thought his kids stepped up to the challenge.”
NSU’s defense took over from there.
The Rangers, after making four of their first seven field goals of the second half, made only five of 16 the remainder of the second half. For the game, Northwest Oklahoma State was limited to 17 of 51 (33.3 percent) shooting from the floor.
“We got a little more intense on defense and got up in their lap a little bit more,” Stricklen said. “Our defense had a lot to do with how we started to flow on offense.”
Tyler, who logged a season-high point total, said Gipson challenged the RiverHawks (3-1) to step up on defense in the final 20 minutes.
“We came into the locker room and he told us that we were playing a little soft,” said Tyler, who also tied Green for a team-high five rebounds. “He said, ‘how many shots do they have to make in your face before you get up there and contest it?’ Really, when we started contesting their shots a little bit better, it flustered them a little bit and we were able to get some rebounds. Then, we came down and made those 3s.”
Playing in front of a crowd of 426, the RiverHawks, who also had Taylor Lewis add in 12 points, ended up shooting 22 of 49 (44.9 percent) from the field. NSU also drained 13 of 17 free throws.
Leading the way for Northwest Oklahoma State was Lawton alum, Titania Simmons, who dropped in 12 points.
NSU started the game on an 11-0 run, thanks to a quick outburst by Katy Harsen, Tyler and Carrington Fox. The trio had the RiverHawks up double digits before Simmons drained two free throws nearly four minutes into the contest for the Rangers.
After Simmons’ two foul shots, the Rangers reeled off five straight points to get within 11-7. From there, NSU maintained its lead but couldn’t close the door on Northwest Oklahoma State.
NSU, after playing in its only home game this month, will head back out on the road to take on Tarleton State on Saturday before traveling to Springfield, Mo., to play Drury on Nov. 28.
“We’re going to be playing good people, and I think our kids understand that,” said Gipson, whose team beat Northwest Oklahoma State for the first time since NSU joined the Division II ranks. “I think we’ll have good preparation for these games and be ready to play hard on Saturday.”