Thursday, March 21, 2002

NKU lets one slip away 68-67

South Dakota St. wins on FT with 4.1 to play

By Paul Christian
Special to the Enquirer

        ROCHESTER, Minn. — Northern Kentucky fans will be talking for a long time about a controversial foul with 4.1 seconds and the game tied.

        Truth be told, however, the Norse had plenty of other opportunities to win Wednesday night's DivisionII Elite Eight matchup with South Dakota State at the Rochester Mayo Civic Arena.

        Instead NKU lost 68-67, abruptly ending its season with a 26-7 record.

        “We had our chances,” said coach Nancy Winstel, “but some of our key offensive players struggled and that put a lot of pressure on the others to pick it up.

        “For us to be successful, every part of our team has to be working, but that didn't happen tonight.”

        But back to that foul.

        SDSU had rallied from a nine-point deficit at 60-51 with 5:40 left to tie it on a pair of free throws by Melissa Pater with 1:03 left.

        The Norse had two chances to take the lead, but Suzie Smith missed on a 3-pointer from the side and Amy Mobley missed a driving layup with eight seconds left.

        “She's made that shot hundreds of times,” said Winstel, “and a lot of those in pressure situations. And I can't blame Suzie for taking that shot, either. Maybe it was a little bit early, but she had an open look and I would tell her to take that shot any time.”

        Shari Johnson grabbed the rebound, dribbled up court and was fouled by Smith at the halfcourt line.

        With 4.1 seconds left, Johnson missed the front end of the two-shot foul but connected on the second.

        Those were the first free throws of the game for Johnson, who was just 1-of-6 from the field.

        “I was just shooting it like every other shot,” she said, “and just hoping it would go in.”

        The Norse got the ball to Michelle Cottrell at halfcourt and she dribbled to the 3-point stripe and threw up a desperation shot at the buzzer.

        “There was some contact on the play,” she said, “but in that situation I guess you can't expect a call.”

        NKU, which had a 67-63 lead, failed to score in the final 1:58. SDSU, which is now 28-8, scored its last eight points via free throws.

        The final margin was just the third lead of the half for the Jackrabbits. The game was tied seven times, six in the second half.

        “Games are won and lost on toughness, and I thought we played some tough basketball down the stretch,” SDSU coach Aaron Johnston said. “Northern Kentucky has a heck of a team, and Michelle Cottrell is one of the best players we have gone against this year and we've seen some very good ones in the NCC (North Central Conference).”

        Cottrell, playing her final game, scored a game-high 29 points but received little help elsewhere. Dana Schubeler added 10, the only other Norse in double figures. NKU shot just 35 percent (23-of-64).

        SDSU takes on the winner of the Florida Tech and Southeastern Oklahoma State game tonight. Defending champion Cal Poly Pomona meets Glenville State in the other semifinal.

        SDSU is in the Elite Eight for the first time. NKU was trying for its second national championship. The Norse last won in 2000.

        NORTHERN KENTUCKY (26-7) — Smith 2-10 0-0 6, Cottrell 9-14 9-14 29, Schubeler 4-14 2-2 10, Mobley 3-10 1-2 9, Flanagan 4-11 0-0 9, Burrows 0-0 0-0 0, Sterling 0-0 0-0 0, Polosky 0-2 0-0 0, Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, Brock 1-3 1-2 4. Totals 23-65 13-20 67.

        SOUTH DAKOTA STATE (28-8) — Cizek 6-12 3-6 17, Davis 3-7 4-4 12, Johnson 1-6 1-2 3, Pater 2-9 5-6 9, Schlagel 5-11 0-0 10, Otte 0-0 0-0 0, Dickmeyer 3-6 0-0 8, DeBoer 4-8 1-2 9, Nelson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-61 14-20 68.

        Halftime—South Dakota State 29, Northern Kentucky 28. 3-Point Goals—Northern Kentucky 8-18 (Smith 2-4, Cottrell 2-2, Mobley 2-5, Flanagan 1-4, Polosky 0-1, Brock 1-2), South Dakota State 6-20 (Cizek 2-7, Davis 2-5, Johnson 0-2, Schlagel 0-2, Dickmeyer 2-4). Fouled out—Northern Kentucky, Polosky. Rebounds—Northern Kentucky 43 (Smith 9), South Dakota State 42 (Schlagel 10). Assists—Northern Kentucky 13 (Smith 3), South Dakota State 13 (Dickmeyer 5). Total fouls—Northern Kentucky 17, South Dakota State 14.


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