Bears Defend the Den Heading into Conference Play

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2015
Savannah Smith puts 25 points on Sacramento State on Dec 29. Photo provided via UNC Athletics

The University of Northern Colorado Bears Women’s basketball team have shown true grit in a tough non-conference schedule.

UNC’s Bears came out of non-conference competition with a 5-4 record.

For Jenny Huth and her ladies to only have four losses is a good statement about what they can bring to conference play.

Their only losses were to CU, LSU, Air Force and BYU.

Each loss was on the road and to a much larger school than UNC coming from tough power/ high-major conferences.

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The road schedule was not kind to the Lady Bears, but notable wins at CSU and San Francisco helped establish they are able to win away from Greeley.

While the Bears sit at 2-4 for their road record, they have been able to post an impressive 5-0 record at home against formidable opponents.

Denver, Southern Methodist and Chattanooga all fell victim to Savannah Smith and company before the Christmas break.

In the early stage of conference play the Lady Bears are 2-0 after decisive wins over Sacramento and Portland State.

Photo provided via Ben Schleiger

New Year, Different Bears

This time last year the Lady Bears were 10-3.

Is it time to worry that the gaps last year’s seniors left could hurt the Bears?

No. The winning margin is less and the BYU and LSU games were losses this year.

But, it has to be taken into account that those were road games in tough environments and there are other games to be proud of.

Last year, CSU won by 11 in Greeley, but this year UNC won by 6 in Fort Collins.

UNC also beat Denver for the third year in a row, even with UNC transfer Courtney Smith on their side.

And while the LSU game was a defeat in Louisiana, the Bears lost by only five points to a power conference SEC team.

It is apparent that Savannah Smith is the leader and hero of the team without Savannah Scott and Kianna Williams.

This year the Bears are younger and guided by first-time head coach Jenny Huth via UCLA, but success still seems to be a part of the program.

Heading into conference play the contribution from young, rising stars Alexis Chapman and Micayla Isenbart could be the key to relieving pressure from Savannah Smith and continuing to win games.

Alexis Chapman scores 23 in overtime win over Chattanooga. Photo provided via UNC Athletics

Looking at the Numbers

A 2-0 start to conference play seems encouraging, but what do the numbers say.

The team scoring has been anchored by Senior Savannah Smith (168), Sophomore Alexis Chapman (143) and Freshmen Micayla Isenbart (104).

In conference play the Bears will have to continue to spread the ball around since the Big Sky already knows how dangerous Smith can be.

The rest of the numbers are good averages, but all have positive room to grow.

What should be concerning to the Bears is their free throws and turnovers.

Free throws are the “easy points” for a team since they are practiced so often and no one is guarding during them.

A 63 percent average is a dangerously low number to have in tight games.

The other concern is the turnovers per game average 16.

That is 16 times the other team has another chance to catch up or extend the lead.

These concerns are shown in the points by quarter below where UNC’s points forced and allowed average to be even at halftime.

It also hurts by having slow starts in third quarter according to the total numbers.

Being the “comeback kids” in the fourth quarter is exciting, but if the problems are remedied then the Bears can defend their title well in conference play.

Team Average
PPG: 65.0
FG %: 38.9
3PT %: 32.4
FT %: 63.7
RB: 41.0
AST: 12.2
TO: 16.3
STL: 7.2
BLK: 2.0

Points Scored by Quarter
Q1
UNC: 191
Opp: 148
Q2
UNC: 148
Opp: 191
Q3
UNC: 172
Opp: 180
Q4
UNC: 195
Opp: 183
OT
UNC: 9
Opp: 6

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