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It's not the Big Dance, but a national championship WNIT game's not too bad The SMS Lady Bears survived 3 rounds of the Womens National Invitational Tournament and will play West Virginia for the WNIT Crown Thursday night at Hammons Student Center. To get to the championship game the Lady Bears defeated Southern Methodist University, Gonzaga University, Texas A&M, and Iowa. Listen as KSMU's Mike Smith takes us to Hammons Student Center where it's Iowa versus the SMS Lady Bears.
From SMS Office of Sports Information
The nation's best three-point shooting team continued to show its prowess on a national stage as the SMS Lady Bears poured home 68 percent of its long-range tries and rolled past the Iowa Hawkeyes, 89-80, Monday night in Hammons Student Center to move into the championship game of the Women's NIT.
The Lady Bears will host the West Virginia University Mountaineers Thursday (March 31) at 7:05 p.m. in Hammons. West Virginia reached the title round with an 80-75 double overtime victory at Kentucky Monday night.
SMS women's season ticket holders may call the Season Ticket Holder Hotline at (417) 836-8300 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday to reserve their season seats by credit card. Season ticket holders have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to reserve their seats for Thursday. Season tickets which have been reserved and paid for may be picked up at Hammons between 12 noon Wednesday and game time Thursday. Tickets for non-season ticket holders may be purchased by calling the Athletics Box Office at Hammons Student Center at (417) 836-SMSU or 1-888-4-SMS-TIX. Box Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. In addition, the box office at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts will be open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday.
The SMS three-point gunners poured home a WNIT single-game tournament record 17 threes in 25 attempts to more than offset the size advantage the huge Hawkeyes used to own the backboards. SMS left few rebounds to pick off and forced 18 Iowa turnovers to win its fourth straight and climb to 24-8 on the season. Iowa fell to 23-10.
Senior Jenni Lingor led the assault as she hit 8-of-11 three-point tries in front of an SMS tournament-high crowd of 6,704 with a 32-point effort just two away from her career scoring high. Lingor's eight threes represent a new WNIT single game record, as do her 18 threes in this tournament. Lingor also pushed her SMS career total of treys to 261, breaking the old SMS mark of 258 previously held by Melody Howard (1990-94). Lingor is 10 points away from the WNIT tournament scoring record entering the final.
Senior K.C. Cowgill was also on fire, hitting all five of her three-point tries and matching her career high with 21 points. Cowgill was 7-of-9 from the floor overall. Sarah Klaassen chipped in two treys and a dozen points while Hannah Kirk hit 4-of-7 from the floor and scored eight points. Kari Koch scored seven points and led SMS with six rebounds.
SMS hit eight of its first 10 three tries and 11-of-15 in the first half to bolt to an 11-point halftime lead. The Lady Bears went on a 16-2 run over four minutes around the mid-point of the half to turned a 16-16 tie into a 32-18 edge. Iowa pulled back to within five at 36-31 before SMS fired its lead to 15 at 49-34. Iowa closed to within 51-40 at the half.
The SMS lead faded quickly after halftime. Iowa cut it to three in just over three minutes and pushed in front for the only time of the half on a three by Crystal Smith with 14:15 to play, 59-57. SMS then turned in a 10-2 run on threes by Koch, Lingor and Tahnee Balerio and the Lady Bears were in front to stay. Iowa was still within five at 77-72 with 5:30 left when the Lady Bears touched off another 10-0 run to put the lead at 15 inside the final two minutes.
SMS finished at .508 (30/59) from the field and Iowa was also hot at .515 (34/66) and hit .500 (9/18). SMS, on the verge of a new all-time season team record for free throw accuracy was perfect in 12 tries from the foul line to push its season figure to .789. The existing record is .773 from 2000-01. Jamie Cavey, sister of former SMS four-year basketballer Ann Cavey, led Iowa with 20 points and 13 rebounds.