FARGO — The first experience of the two-game, two-day Summit League women’s basketball series for North Dakota State last weekend was a lesson in bringing the juice. The Bison started a completely different five the second day than the first.
Whether that happens this time around against the University of Nebraska Omaha remains to be seen, but a 62-53 victory Friday night at the Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex may be better received.
It moved NDSU to 2-1 in the Summit League and 7-2 overall after a split at Western Illinois last weekend. Say this about the Bison: they’re not afraid to play anybody, anytime.
“We had three games in a row where we were outscored 42-17 in the first five minutes,” Bison head coach Jory Collins said of the Western series. “So the group that was starting wasn’t getting it done. We had a group that played hard at the end and I thought they deserved it.”
NDSU fixed those first five-minute blues against Omaha, which was playing its first game since Dec. 17 because of COVID-19 protocol problems. Neither team had a particularly smooth night, but both will get a chance to duke it out again on Saturday night.
This one turned into a street fight in the second half.
“A win is a win, that’s all that matters in conference,” said Bison guard Heaven Hamling.
The Bison held the Mavericks without a point from 5:01 of the fourth quarter until 47 seconds remaining. And that was the difference.
“We just had a good group out there who connected on defense and were in tune with each other,” Collins said. “That is one of the best groups in terms of communicating. They had a good sense of urgency.”
Leading 50-48, the Bison got a 3-point field goal from Reneya Hopkins and two free throws from Emily Dietz, the last with 1:05 remaining. Hopkins' shot appeared to halt the Mavs’ momentum.
“I felt like we needed it,” Hopkins said.
Omaha’s Claire Killian responded with a 3-pointer of her own, breaking their scoring drought and cutting it to 55-51. But Hamling’s three free throws gave the Bison a winning cushion.
The Bison made headway at the end of the second quarter and the first couple minutes of the third. An 11-2 run to close the first half gave NDSU a 29-20 halftime lead.
Abby Schulte’s 3-point field goal, subsequent steal and feed to Hopkins for a fast-break layup made it 36-22.
It didn’t help Omaha that starting 6-3 forward Mariah Murdie battled foul trouble all game, picking up three in the first quarter and her fourth just 30 seconds into the third. The Mavericks, however, found their game late in the third with their best stretch, scoring 11 straight to end the quarter to erase a 13-point deficit.
The Bison suddenly found themselves holding a precarious 43-41 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
“They made a good run against us,” Hamling said. “We pulled together as a team and made a few big buckets. We played through a little adversity there.”
Omaha’s Lauren Frost tied it with an in-close jumper. Meanwhile, the Bison offense struggled against an Omaha zone defense.
Hamling ended an almost six-minute scoring drought with a bucket off an offensive rebound. Hopkins and Hamling led the Bison with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Guard Abby Schulte was in double figures with 10.
Asked about adjustments in facing an opponent two days in a row and Collins said, “We need to make some, we have to score more points. It won’t be anything crazy or major like putting in a new offense or anything like that, but we’ll be tweaking some things and moving people around to different spots.”
Last week, of course, was a major tweak.
“We needed to make a change, we had some energy that wasn’t there,” said Hamling, who didn’t start the second day. “The group we had at the end of the game against Western showed some energy and toughness. So rightly so.”
UNO 12 20 41 53
NDSU 13 29 43 62
UNO (1-5, 0-1 Summit): Pilakouta 5-11 1-2 11, Murdie 1-3 0-0 2, Ogier 3-6 4-4 10, Frost 4-11 4-4 12, Keitges 0-0 0-0 0, Killian 3-10 0-0 7, Schmitt 1-3 0-0 2, Johnston 2-2 0-0 4, Johnson 0-2 0-0 0, Felici 1-4 0-0 3. Totals: 21-53 9-10.
NDSU (7-2, 2-1 Summit): Dietz 1-3 5-8 7, Hopkins 5-10 2-2 14, Cobbins 1-8 2-2 5, Hamling 4-15 3-4 13, Schulte 2-4 4-4 10, Strop 2-3 0-0 5, Olson 1-5 0-0 2, Behnke 2-2 0-0 4, Deaton 0-2 0-0 0, Gaislerova 0-3 0-0 0, Skibiel 1- 10-0 2, Epperson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-56 16-20.
Total fouls: UNO 14, NDSU 21. Fouled out: Murdie, Schmitt. Rebounds: UNO 29 (Pilakouta, Ogier 6); NDSU 41 (Dietz 9). 3-point goals: UNO 2-13 (Frost 0-3, Killian 1-5, Schmitt 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Felici 1-3); NDSU 8-24 (Hopkins 2-6, Cobbins 1-4, Hamling 2-7, Schulte 2-3, Strop 1-1, Olson 0-1, Deaton 0-1, Gaislerova 0-1). Assists: UNO 4 (Ogier 2); NDSU 13 (Hamling 5). Turnovers: UNO 18 (Killian 4); NDSU 17 (Hopkins 5). A-591.