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The Weber State University women’s basketball team went into Greeley, Colo., last Saturday to take on the University of Northern Colorado Bears in the hunt for its first conference win of the season. Despite a good start to the game, WSU fell short once again, 70-63.
WSU sophomore Desiree Ramos had a team-high 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, while sophomore Regina Okoye, the Big Sky Conference leader in steals, added another 17 points and a game-high five steals. Senior Amanda Hughes also hit some key shots for the Wildcats and netted 16 points herself.
Junior center Stephanie Lee of UNC, the conference’s second leading scorer, had a hot start for the Bears, scoring her team’s first 12 points. Despite Lee catching fire early, WSU was able to keep it a close game, with big help from Hughes knocking down two 3-pointers.
Tough play early on from Okoye and Ramos were also essential in the Wildcats being able to hang with the Bears in the opening moments.
Then came one of the biggest droughts the Wildcats have had all season. In the last 12 minutes of the first half, WSU made just two field goals throughout the rough stretch, scoring just seven points in that time frame.
“The big thing with the drought was that we weren’t getting opportunities,” said WSU head coach Bethann Ord. “The shots we were taking just weren’t falling.”
The Wildcats shot just 25 percent in the first half, whereas UNC was allowed to shoot nearly 58 percent.
WSU was also out-rebounded 28-11, allowing UNC to capitalize and outscore the Wildcats 26-7 down the stretch of the first half to take a 38-21 lead heading into the locker room.
Things seemed bleak for the Wildcats, especially when the Bears scored the first four points of the second half to get to their biggest lead and double WSU’s score at 42-21.
But the Wildcats weren’t about to roll over, and the game was all but over. The superior defensive skills of Okoye led to many offensive opportunities that sparked a miraculous 29-4 run to get the Wildcats right back in it. The run was capped as Hughes drained a 3-pointer with 7:30 to go in to make it a one-point game at 49-50, virtually erasing the deficit.
“When you play defense like that, it helps your offense,” Ord said. “In that second half, they fought, and I was really proud of them.”
The Wildcats also got a break when Lee fouled out, then took a huge blow themselves when Okoye fouled out with less than three minutes to go.
“Gina (Okoye) was playing great throughout the whole game,” Ramos said. “When she fouled out, it really hurt us.”
Okoye said she wasn’t too happy with the situation herself.
“I felt like I let my team down,” she said. “I hated being on the bench knowing I couldn’t do anything.”
For the rest of regulation, the Wildcats never got back to within a single possession deficit. As free throws plagued the last-place team down the stretch, UNC was able to hold off the big run and win the game 70-63.
WSU will now play at home for six of the last eight games remaining in the season. They will face the third-place Thunderbirds of Southern Utah University on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Dee Events Center before hosting the sixth-place Idaho State University Bengals on President’s Day at 7 p.m.