A late charge by Ashley Kuchar and the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team helped deliver a big conference win to the Skyhawks.
Kuchar, a 5-8 senior guard, led the way with game highs in points and rebounds as she scored 25 points and hauled in 13 boards to lead the Skyhawks (12-7, 9-6 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference) to a 71-64 home win Friday night inside Whalen Gymnasium against the Western New Mexico Mustangs (9-12, 6-9 RMAC).
FLC rallied late after trailing 37-31 midway through the second half.
“I had to do it. ... In the second half, we had to come back,” Kuchar said of her game. “Most of my points came from the free throw line there at the end. Rebounding, that was my big goal. I don’t think I did very well in the first half, but the second half I tried really hard after coach put some pressure on us.”
It was a key win for the Skyhawks, who jumped up to third place in the RMAC standings Friday night. The Mustangs fell from eighth to 10th in the standings after the loss.
“For us to get a win in that kind of game is really important for us,” FLC head coach Jason Flores said. “We didn’t play great, and we still won.”
FLC had an awful night shooting the basketball. The Skyhawks were just 27.6 percent from the field and went 4-for-22 from 3-point range, but a 35-of-41 night from the free throw line helped the team overcome its cold jump shot.
“We recognized we needed to get to the free throw line a little bit more,” Kuchar said. “We were out of sync on offense anyway, and that was a good way for us to get back in rhythm.”
Noticing his team’s lack of intensity in the first half and opening minutes of the second half, Flores switched his defense from a zone to a bit of a man press; that helped spark the Skyhawks.
“I think their intensity in the first half and their want was more than ours,” Flores said of the Mustangs. “At halftime, we talked about that. We weren’t playing with intensity. ... Credit to our players. They responded to (the press) because we had to do something to try to kickstart ourselves to get into playing harder, faster and better. That worked for us.”
Erika Richards, a 5-9 senior guard, scored 13 points for FLC. Christie Groh and Kylie Santos each scored 11, and Groh was second on the team with nine rebounds. As a team, FLC outrebounded Western N.M. 47-39 in the game, including 15-10 on the offensive end.
Flores was proud of his team’s defense, which held an opponent to less than 40-percent shooting for a sixth consecutive game. Western N.M. shot 33.3 percent from the field in the loss.
“We wouldn’t have won the game if we allowed them to shoot in the 40s or 50s,” Flores said.
The Mustangs were led by Stephanie Moore’s 16 points. She dominated the paint in the first half, but FLC boxed her out and limited her touches in the second.
Nalani Hernandez led the Mustangs with 12 rebounds.
FLC earned redemption for a 71-68 loss at Western New Mexico on Jan. 11. Since that loss, FLC has won five of six games. The Skyhawks will look to make it six of seven Saturday when they will host N.M. Highlands, who beat the Skyhawks 74-63 on Jan. 10.
“We definitely need to get on a roll,” Richards said. “I think the New Mexico games there in New Mexico were definitely eye-opening for us. We also lost a hard one at (Colorado) Christian. That kind of let a fire under us, too. We just gotta keep this up now.”