MOORHEAD — Senior night didn't generate the excitement Minnesota State Moorhead point guard Jacky Volkert had anticipated, with her feeling under the weather of late.
"It kind of kills the mood," said Volkert, the team's lone senior.
The sickness, however, didn't damper her effectiveness. Volkert scored 14 points and added six assists and two steals in her final regular-season home game at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse. Her effort helped lead the Dragons to a 72-56 victory against Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women's basketball before 983 fans.
"We played for Jacky tonight for sure," said Dragons junior Megan Hintz, who had a team-high 18 points. "She's our senior on the team, the lonesome senior, and we won it for her."
The Dragons (21-5, 17-3) took over sole possession of first place in the overall NSIC and North Division standings with two games to play in the regular season. The Bulldogs (17-6, 16-4) were tied with MSUM atop the standings heading into Saturday.
UMD had its seven-game winning streak snapped, a run that started with a 69-53 victory against the Dragons on Jan. 25 in Duluth.
"I think we were very reactive," said Bulldogs head coach Mandy Pearson, who was a standout point guard for the Concordia Cobbers. "They were the aggressors and we were reacting to things. That's not typically how we play. ... They came out and they played hard and we were kind of second-guessing things."
The Dragons started to take control near the second quarter. They closed the first half on a 10-2 run to take a double-digit lead into halftime. The 5-foot-7 Volkert scored four points during that surge, including a 15-foot jumper that gave MSUM a 38-26 lead with 26 seconds to play in the second quarter. The Dragons carried that lead into halftime.
Volkert scored 10 points in the first half on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor, while adding four assists. The Dragons shot 45 percent (14 of 31) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.
"I thought we had good intensity," Dragons head coach Karla Nelson said.
Volkert said she fed off her teammates' energy throughout the game.
"They were my spark tonight and I'm very thankful," Volkert said.
The Dragons pushed their lead to as many as 22 points in the third quarter. Volkert capped a 14-4 surge with a 15-foot jumper from around the foul line. That basket gave MSUM a 59-37 lead with 38 seconds to play in the third. The Dragons shot 54 percent (7 of 13) from the floor in the third quarter to help build their advantage.
"We're a better defensive team than we showed tonight," Pearson said.
MSUM played from the lead more than 38 minutes. The Bulldogs lone lead came at 3-2. Sophomore forward Sarah Grow paced UMD with a game-high 19 points on 9-for-17 shooting from the field. Grow also grabbed seven rebounds.
"We were very complacent the past three weeks," said Hintz, who also added 10 rebounds. "This means a lot that we finally got a weekend sweep. It's been awhile."
The Dragons had split two games in their previous three conference weekends. MSUM closes out the regular season on the road against Minot State and the University of Mary. The Dragons can earn at least a share of the conference title with a win next Friday at Minot State.
"You have to understand the road ahead of us is a tough one," Nelson said. "You have to come out and be aggressive on the road."
UMD 18 26 39 56
MSUM 21 38 59 72
UMD (17-6, 16-4): Simonet 0-7 3-4 3, Kozlowski 4-14 0-0 9, Stark 1-3 0-0 3, Boehm 4-12 0-0 8, Grow 9-17 1-2 19, Schneider 1-2 0-0 2, Pahl 2-6 0-1 5, Olson 3-8 1-2 7. Totals 24-69 5-9 56.
MSUM (21-5, 17-3): Volkert 6-11 0-0 14, Borowicz 4-12 2-2 12, Herbranson 3-4 0-0 8, Green 2-8 3-8 7, Hintz 7-11 3-3 18, Steichen 0-0 0-0 0, Fech 1-3 0-0 3, Boom 2-7 6-7 10, Liegel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-56 14-20 72.
3-point goals: UMD 3-13 (Simonet 0-2, Kozlowski 1-4, Stark 1-2, Boehm 0-2, Kahl 1-1, Olson 0-2), MSUM 8-15 (Volkert 2-3, Borowicz 2-7, Herbranson 2-2, Hintz 1-2, Fech 1-1). Total fouls: UMD 23, MSUM 16. Fouled out: Kozlowski. Rebounds: UMD 38 (Olson 8), MSUM 44 (Green 10, Hintz 10). Assists: UMD 10 (Kozlowski 5), MSUM 13 (Volkert 6). Turnovers: UMD 8 (Simonet 3), MSUM 9 (Volkert 3). A-983.