MOORHEAD — Minnesota State Moorhead head coach Karla Nelson viewed Friday night as a test of her team's fortitude.

The Dragons passed.

Megan Hintz scored a game-high 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds to help lift MSUM to a 56-51 victory against Minnesota-Duluth in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse.

"The one thing I told them before the game, 'I'm looking at your character right now,' to see exactly how bad you want this," Nelson said. "I think they have a lot of character and they hung in there and made plays. Duluth is a good basketball team."

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The Dragons (14-6, 9-4 NSIC) were coming off back-to-back road losses against Wayne State and Augustana last weekend. MSUM snapped that slide while handing the Bulldogs (14-5, 11-2) their second conference loss this season. The Dragons pulled within two games of UMD, which is in first place in the North Division.

Minnesota State Moorhead’s Megan Hintz takes a shot on Minnesota-Duluth during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Minnesota State Moorhead’s Megan Hintz takes a shot on Minnesota-Duluth during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

"It's big because last weekend was tough," Nelson said. "We lost two games that I felt that we could have won. So I think confidence is a big issue right now. ... I believe that this team can play better."

Dragons junior guard Lauren Fech delivered in the clutch late in the fourth quarter. Fech sank a step-back 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to give MSUM a 55-49 lead with 16 seconds remaining.

"That's huge because that play was a mess," Nelson said. "She made the play on her own, but I think you make those things happen when you keep playing."

While the Dragons led for more than 28 of the game's 40 minutes, MSUM couldn't build a lead bigger than eight points. The 6-foot-2 Hintz scored an inside basket that gave the Dragons a 47-41 lead with 6:14 to play. The Bulldogs rallied by scoring eight of the next 10 points. UMD tied the score at 49-49 after Ann Simonet scored a layup with 4:35 remaining. The 5-foot-7 Simonet led her team with 13 points.

The Dragons answered with the next six points, capped by Fech's 3-pointer.

"Duluth is at the top of the North right now and we still want our name to be out there," Hintz said. "Those two losses (last weekend), they hurt. It doesn't mean we're a bad team. We still haven't peaked and we know we can play better basketball."

Hintz had a strong first half for the Dragons, scoring 12 points and grabbing five rebounds in the opening 20 minutes. She scored eight of her team's first 10 points and gave MSUM a 10-3 lead with a basket in the paint with 4:51 to play in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs countered with a 13-2 surge and took a 16-12 lead after Sarah Grow sank a short jumper with 8:47 to play in the second quarter. The Dragons answered by scoring 10 of the next 12 points. MSUM took a 22-18 lead after Peyton Boom scored in the lane with 4:23 to play until halftime.

Simonet scored the final four points of the first half, including a layup that tied the score at 26-26 with 33 seconds to play in the second quarter. That tie carried into halftime.

"This win was key," Hintz said. "We have a chip on our shoulder, that's for sure."

UMD 12 26 39 51

MSUM 10 26 41 56

UMD (14-5, 11-2 NSIC): Olson 5-10 0-0 11, Grow 1-7 0-0 2, Simonet 6-13 0-0 13, Kahl 1-5 2-4 4, Thiesen 0-6 2-2 2, Schneider 3-7 0-0 7, Stark 3-7 2-5 10, Rhoades 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-56 6-11 51.

MSUM (14-6, 9-4): Boom 4-8 1-1 9, Hintz 9-19 2-2 20, Steichen 0-4 3-4 3, Jacobson 3-10 0-0 7, Liegel 0-2 2-2 2, Herbranson 0-1 0-0 0, Green 4-10 2-2 10, Fech 1-1 0-0 3, McKeever 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-58 10-11 56.

3-point goals: UMD 5-21 (Olson 1-2, Simonet 1-4, Kahl 0-2, Thiesen 0-5, Schneider 1-3, Stark 2-5), MSUM 2-17 (Hintz 0-4, Steichen 0-1, Jacobson 1-5, Liegel 0-2, Green 0-3, Fech 1-1, McKeever 0-1). Total fouls: UMD 14, MSUM 16. Rebounds: UMD 32 (Simonet 9), MSUM 44 (Hintz 9). Assists: UMD 11 (Simonet 3), MSUM 14 (three players with 3). Turnovers: UMD 10, MSUM 14.

Minnesota State Moorhead’s Sarah Jacobson shoots over Minnesota-Duluth’s Ann Simonet during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Minnesota State Moorhead’s Sarah Jacobson shoots over Minnesota-Duluth’s Ann Simonet during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Minnesota State Moorhead’s Peyton Boom, right, looks to shoot past Minnesota-Duluth’s Katie Stark during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Minnesota State Moorhead’s Peyton Boom, right, looks to shoot past Minnesota-Duluth’s Katie Stark during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Minnesota State Moorhead’s Natalie Steichen, right, reaches for a loose ball with Minnesota-Duluth’s Katie Stark during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Minnesota State Moorhead’s Natalie Steichen, right, reaches for a loose ball with Minnesota-Duluth’s Katie Stark during their women’s basketball game Friday, Jan. 24, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor