March 15, 2009

Courtesy Michigan Tech

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. -- Michigan Tech pulled the upset! The No. 22-ranked women's basketball played an excellent game on both ends of the floor to take down No. 1-ranked Northern Kentucky 76-53 at NKU's Bank of Kentucky Center tonight and earn a spot in the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship.

Tech (26-6) received 20 points from Katie Zimmerman and a career-high 19 more from Lisa Staehlin to dethrone the defending national champions and advance to the NCAA's Sweet 16 for the first time since 1999.

"I am so proud of our team," said head coach John Barnes. "We got the early lead and continued to build it throughout the game. Once again, everybody contributed to the win.

"Reaching the Sweet 16 was one of our goals, now we'll go after the Elite 8."

Zimmerman drained four 3-pointers in the first seven minutes for all 12 points of a 12-5 advantage. The hosts battled back on top at 17-16 with 9:10 to go, but Lucy Dernovsek answered immediately with a pair of free throws. The Huskies never trailed again.

It was still a two-point margin before No. 4-seeded Tech closed out the half on a 5-0 run with five straight swishes at the foul line. The score was 34-27 at the break.

Perhaps the most critical junction in the game -- the first few minutes of the second half -- were all Tech's as it expanded its lead to 11 in the first two minutes. Back-to-back layups from Katie Wysocky and Staehlin grew the lead to a dozen with 13:33 to play.

Tech's defense, which was the catalyst in its quarterfinal win over Northwood, held strong again. NKU didn't reach the 40 point mark until the 5:57 mark. The Huskies had built a 17-point lead by that point.

The Norse started fouling with 4:22 to play, and the nation's third-best free throw shooting team made them pay. Tech connected on 17-of-19 foul shots in the waning minutes to end the game at 32-of-36 -- two shy of the school record for makes.

Tech shot 44 percent from the field including 6-of-18 (33 percent) from 3-point range. NKU was held to 34 percent from the floor including 2-of-19 (10.5 percent) from behind the arc. The Huskies also posted a 38-31 rebounding edge.

Zimmerman (20), Staehlin (19) and Wysocky (17) accounted for 56 of the team's 73 points -- enough to outscore the Norse by themselves. Staehlin's total came on 8-of-9 field goal shooting. Wysocky added a game-high nine rebounds.

NKU's Jessie Slack, who entered the game with a 17-point scoring average, was held to 10 on 5-of-18 shooting. Tara Ferris and Alicia Schneider got the better of the defensive matchup on her most of the night.

Michigan Tech will now try to earn a trip to the NCAA Women's Basketball Elite 8 in San Antonio, Texas. The Huskies will have to get through No. 7-seeded Indianapolis in the regional title game. The Greyhounds (24-9) are a surprise addition the championship contest after they upset No. 3 seeded Quincy 74-64 in the day's first semifinal.

The 2009 NCAA Women's Basketball Midwest Regional Championship game is set for 7 p.m. Monday (March 16) at NKU's Bank of Kentucky Center.

Notes: Tech ended Northern Kentucky's seven-game winning streak in the NCAA Tournament ... The Huskies' win over the Norse was their first in four tries. The previous three meetings vs. NKU were all buzzer-beater losses in the NCAA Tournament ... Tech's 26 wins this season are tied for the third-most in school history ... The Huskies are now 13-13 all-time in NCAA Tournament games.