|Posted January 24, 2008|
Pack sloughs off late charge by Western to claim sixth straight
PUEBLO, Colo. - All it took was a little patience. The
ThunderWolves did what they've done a lot lately, weathered the
storm in a calm manner before coiling and striking.
The ThunderWolves started slow, shooting a not-so-awe-inspiring 13 percent from the field midway through the first half in what was then an ugly 11-11 affair more than 13 minutes into the game. But the Pack got on fire with a quick 12-0 run that separated them from Western State Thursday, building the foundation of a 65-57 win.
The ThunderWolves looked to be in the midst of a runaway after their initial offensive explosion. The ThunderWolves were leading by as much as 19 in the second half, partly due to amped-up play by center Sarah Staggs, who scored eight of the Pack's first 11 points in the second half, and all-around strong games from Jonnie Draper (13 points) and Linsday Black, who got within a sniff of a triple-double, logging 12 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists, the highest assist output by a ThunderWolf in three years.
"Sarah had a nice second half and it really helped us to get started," Pack coach Kip Drown said. "She had a lot of chances in the paint and really delivered."
But just when the ThunderWolves got comfortable, Western State nearly scored an unbelievable comeback. Similar to what the Pack suffered in a loss earlier this season to Nebraska-Kearney, when they blew a 15-point lead in the waning minutes of the game to lose in overtime, Western State got within four after trailing by 17 with four minutes remaining.
"They had a good defensive intensity, and [what happened at Kearney] almost happened tonight," Drown said. "I have to give them credit, because they hit some big shots and made a game out of it, but it showed that we need to finish better."
The Mountaineers went on an 18-5 run as the game suddenly came down to a 61-57 ThunderWolf advantage with 20 seconds remaining. But an untimely technical foul by Western State coach Latricia Trammell doomed the Mountaineers' comeback, sending the Pack's Rachel Espinoza to the line to ice the game. She nailed two charities that extended the Pack's lead to six and kept the game out of reach. Espinoza finished with 14 points and was a back-breaking 12-for-12 from the line.
"That technical really hurt them, and Rachel really hit some clutch free throws for us," Drown said. "We started to run things to her toward the end, and she was getting some key trips to the line."
The ThunderWolves' 65-57 win was their sixth straight, tied for the longest winning streak under Drown, who took over the team in 2005-06. The win sets up a monumental matchup with Fort Lewis next Friday, who is 16-1 overall and a perfect 9-0 in conference play. The Skyhawks have been rewarded for their start with a national ranking of 15th coming into the week's games.
The Pack's game with Fort Lewis is an early start, tipping off at 12 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1.