It's been one thing after another for Bison women's basketball this season
Injuries, illness and inconsistency have all played a role in dimming preseason expectations.
FARGO — Jory Collins was sitting in his office in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex on Tuesday with an Alberta Clipper weather system outside descending on Fargo. That pretty much describes the North Dakota State women’s basketball season to date.
It’s been one cold front after another.
Injuries, sickness, COVID-19 and inconsistency have all contributed to a 7-10 record that had higher preseason expectations. Collins has been a head coach for 11 seasons, and so far this about takes the cake for the most challenging obstacles he faced.
“I would put this up there probably at the top,” he said.
NDSU hosts Kansas City on Thursday and Oral Roberts on Saturday with the hope of finding an uptick.
The Bison haven’t exactly been parading the streets of Fargo in visibility with their schedule. The last home games, Summit League matchups against Denver and Omaha, were held on the same weekend the NDSU football team was playing for the Division I FCS national championship in Frisco, Texas.
Before that was a Dec. 19 game against NAIA University of Jamestown and the last home nonconference game of consequence was Dec. 4 against Bradley University. Collins called it “bad scheduling” in not allowing his team to find back-to-back winnable games in nonconference, in reference to gaining early-season momentum.
“We just never really gained any traction at any spot,” he said.
Traction has been made more difficult with the slippery slope of injuries. NDSU was counting on true freshman Ellie Dague from Henning, Minn., to play this season, but she had offseason knee surgery and is out the entire season.
The Bison were also counting on starting forward Marie Olson to return from an ACL injury, but that never happened and she’s not on the roster. Collins said her return next year will be discussed after the season.
Freshman forward Katie Hildebrandt is just returning after dealing with an ankle injury for five weeks. Forward Abby Schulte had tendonitis problems starting last summer that left her behind.
It’s left the Bison to lean heavily on starting guards Ryan Cobbins and Heaven Hamling and center Emily Dietz.
“It’s hard to get into a rhythm when you’re not there every day,” Collins said. “One thing about Dietz, Ryan and Heaven is they’re there every day and available every day, so that’s why they’ve been some of our most consistent ones.”
Hamling has played all 40 minutes the last two games. She’s averaging 14.0 points. Cobbins is at 11.3 points and Dietz 7.5 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Still, this was a season NDSU was expected to approach the likes of South Dakota and South Dakota State. Instead, the Bison find themselves in the middle of the Summit pack at 3-4.
“I would tell you how I felt at the end of July and August and how I felt midway through October when we started practicing was not the same,” Collins said. “We haven’t done a lot to change from last year’s team if you look at who we’re playing and what we’re doing. The thing we were trying to build this year was to create a bigger margin for error for ourselves than the last couple of years and we haven’t been able to do that.”
It’s still mid-January. NDSU still has seven of its nine Summit home games remaining. That includes the next four.
“Oh yeah, we have a chance in all of them,” Collins said. “We have to play to a certain level and certain people have to play to a certain level to win these games. When we don’t, we’re not going to win. When we do, we have a good chance to win and still have enough for us to play really well down the stretch if we get all of these guys going.”