Game 6

Wednesday - March 16, 2022

  • #12 Western Nebraska - 71
  • #21 Murray State - 59

Third-quarter surge lifts Western Nebraska past Murray State, 71-59.


LUBBOCK, Texas – Ale’jah Douglass scored a team-high 14 points, and Western Nebraska Community College used a late run in the third quarter to pull away from Murray State College for a 71-59 victory in the opening round of the NJCAA Women’s Division I Basketball Championship Wednesday night at the Rip Griffin Center.


Amani Brown added 13 points for the Cougars (28-2), who advance to face Wabash Valley (28-1) in the second round at 3 p.m. on Friday. Murray State sees its season end at 27-5.


“It was a game where we had to grind it out for sure,” Western Nebraska head coach Chad Gibney said. “Murray does a terrific job of getting up under you, they’re extremely tough and well-coached, and it was a really physical basketball game. We had to grind it out a little bit, but we made the plays when we needed to.


“That was huge there for us the end of the third quarter. We were able to get a few run-outs there toward the end and were able to get all the way to the basket. I thought we put a lot of pressure eon the rim and that contributed to that run.”


Leading 47-43, the Cougars closed the third quarter on a 9-2 run for a 56-45 lead, the largest for any team in the game as the first three quarters were spent with the two squads trading blows. Murray State tried to close the gap a couple of times, but each time Western Nebraska was able to answer.


“We just had to be patient and make the adjustments,” Douglas said. “They were trying to speed us up the best they could.


“It’s just about making the adjustments. Teams obviously scout like we do so if they’re overplaying on one person then somebody else is there to fill up that spot.”


Shanti Henry added 12 points for the Cougars, who hit 8 of 29 attempts from 3-point range while outrebounding Murray State 49-38.


Briana Knabe led all scorers with 15 points for Murray State while Alena Wilson added 13 for the Aggies. But a third period where they shot just 18.8 percent (3 of 16) from the field turned out to be their downfall.


Down 56-45 to start the fourth quarter, Murray State hit a couple of buckets, including an Alaijah Steward 3-pointer, to pull to within six at 56-50, but Western Nebraska answered with five straight points, and that is how the rest of the game went, with Murray and Western Nebraska going back and forth.


The entire first half was spent with both teams taking turns trading shots, with Western Nebraska taking the largest lead for either team at eight points, but it didn’t last long.


Leading 23-21, the Cougars went on an 8-2 run to go up 31-23, five of which came from Amani Brown, with just over two minutes to play in the first half. But Murray State answered that run with six straight points to close the gap to two, leading to a 34-31 Western Nebraska lead at the intermission.


Murray State dominated in the paint, outscoring Western Nebraska 18-10, but the Cougars held an 8-4 advantage in points off turnovers, of which the Aggies committed 11.


Trailing 13-11, the Cougars got back-to-back 3-pointers from Shayane Poirot to go up 17-13, then Western Nebraska outscored Murray State 6-3 to start the second half and go up 23-18.


Brown led Western Nebraska in the first half with nine points while Briana Knabe paced Murray State with 10.


Western Nebraska opened up a 42-33 lead early in the third, but Murray State answered with six straight points to close the gap and set up the decisive final 13 minutes where Western Nebraska pulled away.