Greeley, CO — The University of Northern Colorado welcomed Florida Gulf Coast University to Bank of Colorado Arena today, Nov. 18, as the Bears walked away with a double-overtime win by a final score of 77-74.
Sophomore Courtney Smith said they weren’t going to accept losing.
“It was just not an option for us to lose tonight. We knew this win would be important for us as a team and the program."
Bank of Colorado Arena was electric as several surrounding schools came to cheer on Northern Colorado, which is exactly what this team needed to propel themselves past the Eagles.
Two very evenly-matched teams took to the court to add another ‘W’ to the books, but the Bears definitely had their home crowd advantage today. Every basket, every steal, and every rebound for Northern Colorado resulted in an eruption of cheers from its young and energetic crowd.
The Bears managed to rack up 15 points on the Eagles in the first quarter while only giving up a mere five points. What really got the crowd and Northern Colorado’s squad going was Katie Longwell’s three-point shot at the buzzer to send her team into the second quarter with a little more pep in their step.
Northern Colorado rolled into the second quarter with a loud crowd and a comforting 10-point lead, but that momentum slowed down after FGCU’s Haley Laughter went down with an ankle injury to take her out of the game. The Eagles went from being 10 points behind to tying the score 22-22.
Florida Gulf Coast was very much back in the game, but the Bears managed to hold a one-point lead to close out the first half, 26-25. The Bears were led in the first half by Longwell, Savannah Smith, and Courtney Smith with eight, seven, and six points, respectively. Taylor Gradinjan sparked FGCU’s comeback with seven points, followed by Erica Nelson’s four points in the first half.
The Bears managed to score a quick 10 points to start the second half. And while the Eagles capitalized on some of the Bears’ mistakes, Northern Colorado still held a seven-point lead going into the final quarter. With a crowd like that, how could they not?
The game started to get physical in the fourth quarter, and the fouls started adding up. Emotions were building, and fans were on the edge of their seats.
With 7:30 left in the fourth quarter, the game was back to a one-point lead in favor of the Bears. However, Northern Colorado’s Savannah Smith stepped up with 5:30 left in regulation and hit a three-point shot to extend the team's lead to four.
Just like that, FGCU’s Tytionia Adderly came back with a three-point shot followed by a layup to give the Eagles their first lead of the game, 50-49. The once deflated Eagles came back to life as Northern Colorado went into panic mode.
Shots were falling for both teams as the game winded down. The last minute of regulation was a nail-biter, and at this point, the outcome was unpredictable. With 0.7 seconds left on the clock, Northern Colorado’s Krysta Leger-Walker hit a three-pointer to send the game into overtime.
Emotions were flying — and so was just about everything else. With the scored knotted back up yet again 65-65, the two teams headed into double overtime.
Finally, after an extra 10 minutes of play, Northern Colorado used its home court advantage to walk away with the win and send FGCU packing. But if the Bears have anyone to thank, it would be the 2,100 kids that screamed the roof off Bank of Colorado Arena.
“What a great environment and atmosphere we played in today,” said Northern Colorado coach Kamie Ethridge. “I felt really good about this team going into today and feel that way after too. I just have the feeling like we are on the verge of something here and today showed it."
Northern Colorado improved its record to 2-1 while the FGCU Eagles fall to 2-2 on the season. The Bears are scheduled to play again this Sunday, Nov. 20, at Bank of Colorado Arena against San Diego at 12 p.m. MT.