SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — North Dakota State sank seven first-quarter 3-point shots Sunday at the Sanford Pentagon, a hot-shooting display that led to a noteworthy program accomplishment.
Bison guard Heaven Hamling sank four from beyond the arc in that long-range flurry that sparked a 79-67 victory against the Denver Pioneers in the Summit League women's basketball quarterfinals.
NDSU (15-8) advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive season, the first time that has happened in program history. The Bison have won in the league quarterfinals in 2009, 2020 and 2021.
“I think it’s great, but I guess I hope at some point this is not a big deal and that we’re expected to come in here and win a game at least and hopefully win multiple games in this tournament and play in this championship a bunch of times," said Bison head coach Jory Collins. "That’s what this time of year is about.”
The No. 3-seeded Bison play No. 2 seed South Dakota (17-5) at 2:45 p.m. Monday, March 8, in the semifinals, with the winner advancing to Tuesday's championship game.
“Not having some success in the past, definitely makes this more special," said Bison senior Emily Dietz, who had eight points, five rebounds and three assists against Denver. “It’s exciting, but we’re not finished yet. We have a lot of goals for our program and a lot of goals for our group. We’re just excited to compete.”
Hamling put her stamp on the game early, scoring 12 of her team-high 16 points in the opening 10 minutes. The 5-foot-8 sophomore was 4 of 5 from 3-point range in the first quarter. She didn't attempt a shot from beyond the arc in the final three quarters.
The Bison shot 7-for-12 (58%) from 3-point range in the opening quarter.
“They started in a zone and I think we needed to prove a point from the very beginning," said Hamling, who added five rebounds, two assists and three steals. "We just kind of let it fly. … We kind of got rolling from there.”
The Bison started to pull away with a 13-0 run that started past the midway point of the first quarter. Michelle Gaislerova, Hamling and Kadie Deaton each sank 3-pointers to spark that streak. Reneya Hopkins capped that run with a layup that gave NDSU a 27-14 lead with 9:49 to play in the second quarter.
“The seven was just kind of daggers," Denver head coach Doshia Woods said of the early Bison 3-pointers. "We like to shoot a lot of 3s … so they almost beat us at our own game the first quarter. We kind of played catch-up after that.”
The Bison added a 10-0 run late in the second quarter, including four points from freshman guard Abby Schulte. Junior forward Britney Epperson capped the run with a mid-range jumper that gave NDSU a 40-22 lead with 2:21 to play until halftime.
“I think our team right off the bat was just confident," Dietz said. "We knew that whatever Denver was going to throw at us, we were prepared for it. We stepped into the game with a lot of confidence. We were just ready to compete.”
The Bison shot 7-for-13 (54%) from 3-point range in the opening half. Hamling scored 14 points by halftime to help the Bison take a 40-25 lead into halftime.
“I thought we were dialed in pretty early defensively and played really good defense for three quarters," Collins said.
The Bison led by as many as 28 points in the second half. They took a 75-48 lead after a Ryan Cobbins basket with 5:09 to play in the fourth quarter. Hamling sat for most of the fourth quarter with the Bison holding a sizable lead. NDSU didn't have any player play more than 28 of the game's 40 minutes.
The Bison had six different players score in double figures. The 6-foot Cobbins finished with 14 points, including three 3-pointers, and Kadie Deaton added 11 points off the bench.
“We had some pretty key performances out of multiple players," Collins said.
DU 14 25 40 67
NDSU 25 40 65 79
DU (7-16): Boyd 6-22 4-5 19, Gritt 3-7 2-2 9, Ezeudu 7-12 2-2 16, Malonga 2-5 0-0 4, Jeffcoat 1-1 1-2 3, Counsel 2-2 0-0 5, Hein 1-2 2-2 4, Levison 1-1 1-4 3, Foster 0-4 0-0 0, Deem 1-1 0-0 2, Forney 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 24-57 14-19 67.
NDSU (15-8): Hopkins 5-11 0-1 11, Hamling 5-8 2-2 16, Schulte 3-7 2-2 8, Dietz 3-3 2-3 8, Cobbins 4-11 3-4 14, Novak 0-0 0-0 0, Strop 0-1 4-6 4, Behnke 1-3 0-0 2, Gaislerova 2-2 0-0 5, Skibiel 0-5 0-0 0, Epperson 1-4 0-0 2, Deaton 4-5 0-0 9. Totals 28-60 13-18 79.
3-point goals: DU 5-25 (Boyd 3-11, Gritt 1-4, Ezeudu 0-2, Malonga 0-2, Counsel 1-1, Hein 0-1, Foster 0-4), NDSU 10-23 (Hopkins 1-4, Hamling 4-5, Schulte 0-1, Cobbins 3-5, Strop 0-1, Gaislerova 1-1, Skibiel 0-5, Deaton 1-1).Rebou nds: DU 30 (Ezeudu 8), NDSU 35 (Hamling 5, Dietz 5). Assists: DU 9 (Boyd 4), NDSU 15 (Schulte 5). Turnovers: DU 16 (Ezeudu 5), NDSU 16 (four players with 3).