Sunday, March 26, 2000

NKU NOTEBOOK


Cottrell MVP of tournament

BY NEIL SCHMIDT
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PINE BLUFF, Ark. — The answer to the trivia question: Misi Clark of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

        The question: With Michelle Cottrell being a first-team All-American and dominating the Division II Player of the Year on Saturday, who in the world shared the Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Year honors with her?

        Yes, Northern Kentucky University's star sophomore — named the NCAA Tournament's Most Valuable Player — couldn't even convince her league's coaches of her prowess. To hear NKU coach Nancy Winstel describe it, NKU's balanced play works against Cottrell.

        “We are so team-oriented, and when you play in our program, you won't put up huge numbers,” Winstel said. “In order to appreciate Michelle Cottrell, you have to be with her every day and watch all the little things she does.”

        Cottrell averaged 17.3 points and 9.4 rebounds and shot 57 percent from the field this year. Yes, Clark averaged 21.4 points and 4.7 assists — “Misi Clark is very deserving,” Winstel said — but Cottrell made the GLVC coaches look silly Saturday.

        She totaled 23 points and 19 rebounds, and North Dakota State's Jayne Even — the aforementioned National Player of the Year — would manage just 14 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Head-to-head, it was no contest.

        “I can just shake my head in amazement,” NKU junior guard Michele Tuchfarber said. “She's undersized (5-foot-10), but she just gets the job done.”

        Cottrell, a Boone County grad, won't toot her own horn.

        “It's such a team game,” she said. “No one person would win a game for us. Even the times I score, it's only because my teammates make perfect passes to me.”

        LET'S TRY AGAIN: It took only 10 minutes. The initial wave of kissing and crying had momentarily subsided when someone yelled, “Repeat!”

        The team was too busy celebrating its first national basketball title to immediately acknowledge the thought. But a half-hour later, discussion of back-to-back titles began.

        “We already know we have a big target on our backs for next year,” Tuchfarber said.

        NKU will return its top 10 players and is a cinch pick to be No.1 next season. But coach Nancy Winstel tried to downplay talk of 2001.

        “I want them to enjoy this,” she said. “There's no guarantees in the future. This is really special, so we're just going to savor this.”

        MOBLEY STARS: As a freshman in the national championship game, Amy Mobley started predictably slow, missing two free throws and then blowing a layup. But the Harrison grad would wind up a hero, totaling 13 points, 11 of them after halftime.

        “After the first couple of minutes, I was all right,” she said. “My defense is what got me into the game.”

        Mobley blocked three shots, including two in the final three minutes of regulation. Averaging 8.3 points, this was her 13th time scoring in double figures.

        GEIMAN'S BIG YEAR: NKU's lone senior, walk-on Lisa Geiman, capped an athletic career she could hardly have imagined. She was a member of both the soccer and basketball teams, which both reached the Final Four this year.

        When the Bishop Brossart grad began at NKU, the school didn't have varsity women's soccer and she wasn't playing basketball.

        “It's like rags to riches,” she said. “I never could have dreamt this.”

        GOOD MOVE: Junior guard Heather Livingstone transferred from Winona (Minn.) State after last season in hopes of playing for a contender.

        “It was a tough decision, but I took a risk,” she said. “I got lucky. Great things happen sometimes. You can't be afraid to take chances.”

        NORSE NOTES: Winstel got her 400th career coaching victory Thursday, and is now 401-161 in 20 seasons as a head coach ... Scott Marston and Craig Conley of the men's basketball team made the 10-hour drive to cheer on the women. “We're all one big family,” Marston said ... NKU is now 11-10 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

       



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