GRAND FORKS — Predictably, a lot of questions remain regarding the University of North Dakota's women’s basketball season:
When will UND’s first win come after 11 straight losses?
Can this team work past frustration and disappointment?
How much confidence remains after losing three heart-breaking contests against its rival?
Those questions still remained after North Dakota State held off another late surge from UND as the Bison took a 71-68 overtime win over the Fighting Hawks on Saturday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Speaking of questions, the Bison — again — had the answers late when it mattered.
As they did a night earlier, the Bison had enough answers to hold off another late UND surge.
After trailing by double-digits for more than 13 minutes, UND made a run at NDSU in the third quarter — normally the Hawks’ poorest 10-minute period of the season.
But the Bison delivered timely baskets, grabbed important rebounds or won 50-50- balls late in the third quarter and again late in the fourth to improve to 10-2 overall and 5-1 in the Summit League, while the Hawks dropped to 0-11 and 0-5.
UND’s second-half performance perhaps was its best stretch of basketball this season. In the end, however, UND remained winless and frustrated.
“We saw how much this team is willing to fight,” said UND coach Mallory Bernhard. “We’re just a little bit away. We’re 0-11 and NDSU is 10-2. We’ve played them to two overtime games and a four-point loss.
“We’re just a little bit away; we’re so close. We just need that little bit of mental toughness, that resiliency down the stretch and this record doesn’t have a zero on it.”
UND trailed by 18 points early in the second quarter and was down 12 three minutes into the third quarter before the Hawks rallied behind an impressive inside game led by Olivia Lane (20 points) and Juliet Gordon (14). The Hawks finished with 42 points in the paint — the vast majority in the second half.
Lane had 11 rebounds to earn a double-double. Her offensive rebound and basket gave UND a 60-59 lead with 1:36 to go, but NDSU center Emily Deitz responded with a basket with 46 seconds to play for the lead. A basket by UND’s Claire Orth with six seconds left in regulation tied the game at 62-62 but Dietz couldn’t get a shot off in the closing seconds, forcing overtime.
NDSU scored the first four points of overtime. UND couldn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way. A forced 3-pointer by UND's Maggie Manson at the buzzer was off the mark.
“Obviously, that’s how a rivalry game is supposed to look,” said NDSU coach Jory Collins. “All three games against them have looked like that. For us, it was a tale of two halves. We couldn’t have been better defensively in the first half, but we weren’t so good in the second. They made some great plays to get back into the game and grab the momentum. I’m proud of our team finding a way to win.”
Dietz led the Bison with 18 points while Heaven Hamling added 14 as NDSU shot 44% compared to UND’s 41%.
UND placed four players in double figures — with Juliet Gordon adding 14, Manson 11 and Meagan Zander 10. Combined the four were 21 of 39 from the field.
It won’t get any easier for the Hawks, who now travel to South Dakota State for a pair of games next weekend. The Jackrabbits — no stranger to the Associated Press Top 25 poll — received votes in the latest rankings.
Statistically, there wasn’t a big difference between the teams. It was the little things that lifted the Bison.
“I think rebounding cost us at the end,” said Gordon. “They had some big offensive rebounds, especially on free throws. We’ve got to do better on that and we spoke about it. We just didn’t execute like we could.”
That’s part of the frustration that UND is going through. The Hawks have good stretches, but not-so-good stretches as well.
“That’s the storyline,” Gordon said. “We definitely have good parts but we have to find that missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle and put it together.”