A quarter of a century later, she jumped into a swimming pool fully clothed to celebrate NKU’s first national championship. The Norse players followed, still in their uniforms.
The 71-62 overtime victory against North Dakota State on March 25, 2000, gave NKU the NCAA Division II title, the sports moment judged the greatest in school history.
“Heck,” Winstel told The Cincinnati Enquirer, “it’s not like we have practice tomorrow.”
It was especially sweet since the Norse lost in the 1987 and 1999 Final Fours. The men’s basketball team lost consecutive Division II championship games in 1996-97.
The victory also capped a remarkable run of six NCAA Tournament teams in 13 months for NKU. The volleyball and women’s soccer teams also reached the Final Four, but only the women’s basketball team won it all.
“It’s almost undescribable,” said junior guard Heather Livingstone. “I wish I would have looked in a dictionary to find a word for this. It’s absolutely the best feeling in the world.”
Sophomore Michelle Cottrell scored 23 points and grabbed 19 rebounds to earn tournament MVP honors after totaling 23 points and 19 rebounds. Freshman Amy Mobley added 13 points, 11 in the second half, and junior Julie Cowens 12. North Dakota State scored only one basket in the final 11:27 of the game.
What was supposed to be a rebuilding season ended with a 32-2 record and a 24-game winning streak.
And a splash of history.
“This is one of the few times I have ever been speechless,” said Winstel, who led NKU to another national championship in 2008. “When we went into this year, we didn’t ever think about winning a national championship. We’re so young, we never looked ahead past the next game.”
NKU’s upward mobility continues.
The Norse jumped to the Division I Atlantic Sun Conference in 2012 and joined the Horizon League last year as its 10th member.
They became a full Division I member on July 1, gaining postseason eligibility in all sports.
On the cover and above: The Northern Kentucky women’s basketball team celebrates the first national championship in school history. (Courtesy Jeff McCurry/NKU Sports Information)
THIS WEEK’S GREATEST MOMENTS
• Monday: New Mexico State and New Orleans
• Tuesday: Nicholls and UNC Asheville
• Wednesday: UNC Greensboro and UNC Wilmington
• Thursday: North Dakota and Northeastern
• Friday: Northern Illinois and Northern Kentucky