Bearcats on roll after winning 15 of past 17
By Jason Shoot
While many college students wish to spend their spring breaks basking in the sun on the beaches of Florida, south Texas, or Mexico, the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team will spend its hiatus away from campus in search of an NAIA national championship.
Besides, the 10th-ranked Skylights already spent a week in Mexico when they won the Torneo Cancun Shootout championship in December.
Northern will face No. 21 Brescia (Ky.) in the first round of the national tournament Thursday at 7:45 p.m.
Northern assistant coach Joan Steffen said she knew little about Brescia until she had time to view some video tapes. But she added she had had conversations with some of the Bearcats' regular-season opponents and said the Kentucky school "has a couple really good three-point shooters and love to press.
"They sound a lot like us."
Stephanie Duncan leads the Bearcats' long-range shooting effort. She made 74 of 185 three-point attempts this season.
Other Brescia players who enjoy camping out beyond the three-point arc are Misty Fenwick (36-for-85 on threes this season) and Kari Jo Edwards (25-for-60).
Brescia was led much of this season by senior Alicia Carver, who is one of just 11 players in school history to score 1,000 points over the course of her career.
But Carver, who was averaging nearly 11 points a game, blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in a knee several games ago and is out for the season. She has been adequately replaced by Jennifer Flener, who averaged nearly 12 points a game during Brescia's final four contests.
"The coach I talked to said they're a different team without (Carver)," Steffen said. "Their other scorer is (Duncan) and they focus on her for more shots."
Despite Carver's absence, Brescia is still riding a seven-game winning streak and has defeated several top-level schools this season. The Bearcats have won 15 of their past 17 games.
Brescia (22-8) has defeated five top-20 schools, including Campbellsville and Trevecca twice and Transylvania once.
Campbellsville was ranked fifth and 10th, Trevecca was 11th and 16th, and Transylvania was 20th in those Brescia wins.
Brescia has relied on defense much of this season, holding opponents to just 37.3 percent shooting from the floor, including 28.7 percent on three-point shots. The Bearcats have also outrebounded opponents by an average of 54-46 this season.
The Bearcats reached the NAIA Division II national tournament three straight years between 1995 and 1997, and this is the first national tournament the school has reached since moving up to Division I in 1998.