The University of Minnesota, Morris women's basketball team clinched their second straight Upper Midwest Athletic Conference championship over the weekend with a pair of wins.
The Cougars improved to 17-6 overall and remain undefeated in the UMAC at 12-0. Saturday's win was their 13th straight, as well as their 25th straight in UMAC play.
As champions, the Cougars can rest knowing they will be at home throughout the UMAC Tournament, which gets underway on Feb. 23.
But first they must turn their attention to St. Scholastica and Northland, as they travel north to wrap up the regular season.
The Cougars cruised to their 11th straight win with an 81-31 victory over host Crown Friday, Feb. 11.
The Cougars' shot better that 50 percent (20-of-39) from the field in the first half, but even more impressive was that their defense held the Storm under 20 percent (5-of-27) in the period while allowing only 10 field goals for the entire game.
The Cougars raced out to a 48-12 first-half lead and never looked back. By the 11:53 mark, a Jenni Noordmans jumper gave Morris their first double-digit lead at 15-4. At 8:58 they went up 25-4 on an Emily Mehr lay-in after a Brandi Cresap steal.
The swipe was one of four on the night for Cresap, as the Cougars forced the Storm into 26 total turnovers, while turning it into 37 points.
It was a new face at the top of the leaderboard for the Cougars, as Steph Roggenbuck's team high 12 points was matched by freshman Abby Fragodt. However, it was Fragodt who outshined all players on the boards with a game-high 12 for her first career double-double.
The Cougars won the conference championship Saturday, Feb. 12, with a 53-52 win over host Northwestern, holding off a big second-half Eagle rally in the process.
"All season we've been an offensive team, and have been able to score points," head coach Tim Grove said after the win. "But we've always hung our hat on defense, and our defense really came through today. It feels great to get a second straight championship, and we'll enjoy it and try to get two more next weekend."
The perfect Cougars handed the second place Eagles their third UMAC loss, eliminating them from title contention.
Roggenbuck played as well as she has all season and led the way with 23 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, not to mention one huge block as the Cougars clinched the win.
Down by four with 22 seconds left, Northwestern's Kelsey Kosman drained a three to pull the Eagles within one at 53-52. Then came the call of the game as a turnover was called on Noordmans. Noordmans stepped out to inbound the ball, but after taking the ball saw Roggenbuck - who usually handles the inbound - heading over. Noordmans stepped out to give the ball to Roggenbuck, but as she did stepped in bounds with the ball and was called for the turnover. Now, with just 19 seconds left in the game, Northwestern was awarded a second consecutive possession down by just one.
The Eagles managed to get off two shots in the final seconds, but each time was denied. First by Roggenbuck's lone block, and again by the last of three swats from Mehr. Mehr finished with 18 points on the night, going 7-of-10 from the floor.
Tara Thielke grabbed the rebound on the second miss and was immediately fouled. For just the second time all season Thielke was held scoreless, and as she went to the line looking for her first points, missed the front end of the one-and-one with the Eagles grabbing the rebound.
With six seconds left and one final attempt, Northwestern's desperation shot missed and Morris had survived.
"We normally finish better than we did today," Grove said. "But give them credit, they're a very good defensive team. We went on a dry spell and their defense is outstanding. We had some miscues on D, and they were able to capitalize."
Trailing 23-16 at halftime the Eagles outscored the Cougars 36-30 in the second half, first getting within one after a three-point play at the 5:36 mark. Northwestern shot 42 percent (13-of-31) in the second half after struggling to a 24 percent (6-of-25) clip in the first half.