Freshman Averee Kleinhans stood a little bit past half court, the basketball in her hands, as the clock wound down. She looked up into the stands with a smile for a second or two as cheers hit a fever pitch.
She looked proud, grateful and a little bit relieved. The University of Northern Colorado (5-2) defeated Colorado State (4-3) at home, 102-91, in triple overtime.
“I feel like every game should be like this,” Kleinhans said. “Not triple overtime, but if it’s triple overtime and we get the win — then it’s worth it.”
It was the first triple overtime since Nov. 18, 2016, when UNC defeated Florida Gulf Coast by three. The team also tied a Division I program record for points scored. The last time a UNC squad scored 102 was back in 2017 when the Bears played Sacramento State.
Games feature a lot of moments and a lot of attributes that contribute to a win or a loss. For the Bears, it all boiled down to maturity.
Mattio played seven freshmen. The upperclassmen haven’t played against CSU before. They executed the fundamentals, made in-game adjustments, stayed calm and put forth an exemplary effort.
In the two losses, UNC led going into the fourth quarter. That was the situation this time. Mattio wishes she could take away the 3-point foul that led to overtime, but she’s still pleased with the team’s growth just in the last week.
“I’m just really proud of their resilience. We talked about before (the game) that it can’t be talk anymore. There has to be this action on the floor,” Mattio said. “That was our mentality tonight. We’re gonna go put our foot down, send a message all throughout the game that we’re going to stay locked in. My goal was just, ‘Give us a chance at the end.’ We were more than able to walk away with that win because of just our players stepping up into the big moments.”
Freshman Gabi Fields set a new career high and led all scorers with 36 points. For reference, men’s basketball captain Daylen Kountz has the same career high.
Mattio praised Fields, who previously hadn’t been taking some of those big shots, for not being afraid.
“We knew their game plan was going to be to shade off certain people,” Fields said, alluding to juniors Hannah Simental and Delaynie Byrne, “(We’ve) got to keep them honest. Like, ‘You’re gonna have to guard me.’ That’s kind of what I was thinking going into it.”
Fields obviously wasn’t the only player with a big night. Kleinhans made shots late and managed to force the ball out of bounds — off of a CSU player — to give UNC possession.
She finished with her own career highs. Kleinhans finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds, both new personal bests and her first-ever double-double.
Then, Mattio called junior Sydney Stensgard the “silent assassin.” Stensgard recorded 17 points, second on the team, and made 5-of-6 shots from 3.
“She was chipping in these three balls, boom, boom, boom,” Mattio said. “Sydney was just sticking it to them all out throughout the game. I thought her contribution was really key.”
Colorado State was picked to finish third in the Mountain West, but it will likely be a tight race for the top. It feels wonderful getting a win. Not only did the victory come against a great team, but they got the dub for their Colorado teammates.
They went 0-2 in Texas, where they’re both from, and didn’t want that to happen with the in-state rivalries.
“Not being from Colorado, I just really wanted to get it for the girls that are,” Fields said. “So coming in, that was just kind of the mindset was to be the aggressors. I feel like we accomplished that.”
UNC returns to play at 6 p.m. Friday when it hosts South Dakota. The men’s basketball team rounds out the rivalry with the Rams this weekend. It plays Colorado State at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Fort Collins.
Notes from the game
- CSU held Simental to 11 points, but she made clutch free throws at the end to seal the win.
- Byrne tied Kleinhans with 12 rebounds, also a career high.
- Fields tied for No. 3 in Division I history with seven 3-pointers in a single game.
- Fields finished four points away from tying the Division I record for points in a single game.
- UNC snapped CSU’s two-game winning streak.
- Coming into the game, the Rams had won five of the last six contests. It also won three straight at Bank of Colorado Arena.