INDEPENDENCE, Mo. – (Box Score) Defending national champion and No. 1-seed Oklahoma City rolled through championship newcomer Great Falls (Mont.), 88-52, to be the first team to claim a spot in the Fab Four of the 2015 NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship, presented by Susan G. Komen Greater Kansas City. The 35th annual event is being played out for the first time in event history at the Independence Events Center.
Oklahoma City advances to the semifinals for the 13th time in program history and improves to 13-3 all-time in the quarterfinals. With a national title this year, the Stars will bring their already NAIA-record total to eight and become the first team to repeat as champion since former member Union (Tenn.) accomplished the feat in 2009 and 2010.
“We’re privileged and blessed to be in the position we are,” said Oklahoma City head coach Latricia Trammell. “We’re really looking forward to Monday.”
For the third-straight game, Oklahoma City steamrolled through the opening 20 minutes en route to a 37-20 halftime lead. The Stars, who trailed 14-11 at the 10:46 mark after a Lindsey Abramson jumper in the lane, outscored Great Falls 26-6 for the final 10 minutes of the period.
“I think our team in general was feeding off of positive possessions,” said Trammell. “I’m really proud of our bench contributing like they did. We’re in it to win it – like every other team here. We need to continue to do what we do.”
Oklahoma City’s offensive explosion was keyed by a 16-for-34 (47.1 percent) shooting effort from the field. Senior center Ouleymatou Coulibaly, who entered the contest averaging 10.5 points and seven rebounds per game through two games at this year’s championship, was the only player in double-digits with 10 points.
Great Falls was hampered by poor shooting and turnovers. The Argonauts converted only 25.7 percent of attempts in the opening 20 minutes, including going only 1-for-15 from beyond the arc. Great Falls also had eight turnovers in the period – 19 total in the contest.
The offensive onslaught continued in the second half, as the Stars pushed to as many as 38 points.
For the game, Oklahoma City shot 50.7 percent (35-for-69) from the field, including an unprecedented 54.3 percent (19-for-35) from the floor in the second half.
Yvonte Neal and Rateska Brown paved the way for Oklahoma City with 22 points each.
Neal, who entered the national championship third on the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game, has been nothing short of dominant at this year’s championship. The Spring Valley, Calif., native is averaging 21.7 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game at the event.
“She’s (Neal) a returner, she’s a national champion and she’s a senior,” said Trammell. “She knows what it takes and is doing a fantastic job.”
Seventh-seeded Great Falls was led again by Erin Legel, who concluded the contest with 15 points. She played all 40 minutes.
With the loss, the Argonauts end the year with a 24-10 record. Great Falls appeared in its first-ever national championship.