FARGO - Progress has been measurable this month for the North Dakota State women’s basketball team. The Bison knocked off two more obstacles Sunday afternoon.
An 85-80 win over the University of Denver at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex was a turnabout from a loss to the Pioneers in late December and the fact the Bison finally won an overtime game erased another demon. NDSU was 0 for 2 in OT games this season.
The program is on the up.
“Huge, everything,” said Bison junior Emily Dietz, when asked about the improvement in her time at NDSU. “You can tell by the way we play. So many people talk to us about how much harder we’re playing and how much more efficient looking we are. Smarter. Stronger. Yeah, it’s really exciting.”
NDSU lost its Summit League opener 91-82 at Denver. There were times this year, especially before Christmas, when head coach Jory Collins questioned his team’s toughness.
“We showed some today, for sure,” Collins said. “We’re a lot more mentally tough. Earlier in the year we wouldn’t have bounced back. … I know for us six weeks ago we would have had no chance of winning that game with all the turnovers and miscommunication but we found a way in the third and fourth quarter to make some timely plays.”
NDSU won despite committing 32 turnovers. In the last week, NDSU has beaten the University of North Dakota and took South Dakota State to the wire on the road. Losses in overtime earlier this year were to Northern Illinois and Western Illinois.
“We came out on the short end of the spectrum in those,” said Bison forward Rylee Nudell. “This felt good. Rewarding.”
The Bison were rewarded for their rally to force overtime. Dietz’s rebound bucket with 1:11 left ended a Bison cold spell and brought them within 69-65. One possession later, Nudell’s layup off a feed from Dietz cut the margin to two at 33 seconds.
“We did a good job of executing and listening to what Jory had to say,” Nudell said. “The whole game we wanted to get it into the post and when we fed the post good things happened.”
That was true at the end of regulation. A DU turnover on an out-of-bounds pass gave NDSU a last chance and Dietz converted inside with 6.8 seconds remaining. The second half ended with another Pioneer turnover.
It took until the fourth quarter before NDSU found a workable lineup solution. Seven straight points by the Pioneers late in the third quarter and, later, a layup off a Bison turnover in the final seconds gave DU a 51-45 advantage heading to the final 10 minutes.
“We probably played as poorly as we’ve played in a month in the first quarters,” Collins said. “That was unlike how we’ve been playing lately.”
The Bison didn’t fold. Nudell’s three-point play gave NDSU its first lead of the half at 58-56 with 6:27 remaining and the fight was on to the finish. Moreover, the Bison steadied the ship after the rash of turnovers.
“That was pretty ugly,” Dietz said. “But that shows you how we’ve continued to improve and we pulled out the win. It’s something we talk about. Like I said, even with 32 turnovers we ended up getting the win. What’s it going to look like when we keep (the turnovers) under 15?”
Denver was without head coach Jim Turgeon, who was placed on administrative leave last week according to a school spokesperson. The team was led by assistant Kayla Ard, who was one of four finalists for the Bison head coaching position last spring.
The Pioneers beat the University of North Dakota 91-81 on Friday.
Denver 19 33 51 69 80
NDSU 11 33 45 69 85
DENVER (9-12, 3-5 Summit): Nelson 12-25 2-2 26, Ezeudu 2-10 3-4 8, Johnson 1-6 0-0 3, Loven 5-13 1-2 13, Gritt 0-0 1-2 1, Boyd 5-14 7-8 19, Malonga 1-4 0-0 2, Jackson 4-8 0-0 8, Foster 0-0 0-0 0, Zulich 0-0 0-0 0, Deem 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 30-80 14-18.
NDSU (5-14, 2-5 Summit): Nudell 6-7 5-5 18, Dietz 10-16 1-6 21, Zivaljevic 3-6 0-0 8, Cobbins 5-9 3-3 14, Rimdal 0-1 2-2 2, Gaislerova 2-8 0-0 5, Scales 3-7 4-6 11, Terrer van Gool 1-1 0-0 2, Voegeli 2-4 0-0 4, Skibiel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 32-59 17-24.
Total fouls: DU 19, NDSU 24. Fouled out: Gritt. Rebounds: DU 33 (Nelson 10); NDSU 46 (Dietz 13). 3-point goals: DU 6-27 (Nelson 0-3, Ezeudu 1-4, Loven 1-2, Boyd 2-7, Malonga 0-1, Jackson 0-3); NDSU 4-18 (Nudell 1-2, Zivaljevic 0-3, Cobbins 1-3, Rimdal 0-1, Gaislerova 1-4, Scales 1-5). Assists: DU 13 (Boyd 4); NDSU 17 (Cobbins 5). Turnovers: DU 17 (Johnson 4); NDSU 32 (Zivaljevic 8). A-537.