Women’s basketball headed to its first NCAA Tournament after winning Big Sky Tournament

Savannah Smith drives past a Montana defender in the second round of the Big Sky Tournament in Reno, Nevada. Photo Courtesy of uncbears.com

Savannah Smith may be running out of room in her trophy case.
The University of Northern Colorado junior has piled up the accolades in her three-plus years in a Bears uniform.
Last year she was named to the All-Big Sky first team, and followed that with another first-team selection a Big Sky Player of the year titled this season.
All while leading the Bears to a combined 48-14 record over that time.
After a 34-point, 8-assist outburst Saturday afternoon in the Bears 91-69 win over Idaho in the Big Sky Championship game, she can add Big Sky tournament MVP to the list.
“If anyone had any doubts about who the MVP of our league was, she reminded them over and over,” Bears coach Kamie Ethridge said.
With the win, UNC qualified for its first NCAA tournament in program history. The Bears will find out who they play Monday.
Smith, who set a Big Sky tournament record with 78 points through the three games, couldn’t miss before halftime, rattling off 20 points by the break to the tune of a 7-of-10 performance from the field to give UNC a 43-31 lead.
“One thing I try and do is treat this like any other game,” Smith said. “For me, nerves can set in. I just fed off the energy and went out and played.”
The Bears extended their lead to 66-44 by the end of the third and cruised to the 22-point victory.
Savannah Smith hit two big threes in the fourth when Idaho was on the verge of pulling within 15 to nix any possible run. She finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds.
“It’s amazing,” Scott said. “I have been crying this whole time and it’s tears of joy. I’m just so happy and proud right now.”
Along with Smith, Kianna Williams was also named to the Big Sky All-Tournament team.

The Case for the Bears

Thanks in part to a 13-game win streak, UNC currently sits 33rd in RPI — a formula used to determine how good teams are based on record and strength of schedule — and hold a top-25 non-conference RPI.
The Bears also have wins over DePaul and LSU, both of are ranked in top 25 national polls.
Simply put: this Bears team is legit.
ESPN has them as an 11 seed in its latest projected bracket, matching up against Oregon State. The Beavers are ranked 38th in RPI.



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