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Bison freshman Graham delivers electric 1st half to fuel decisive home victory

NDSU guard Abby Graham scored a career-high 22 points against the Denver Pioneers.

North Dakota State guard Abby Graham drives to the basket Thursday night against the Denver Pioneers at Scheels Center in Summit League women's basketball play.
Zachary Lucy / NDSU Athletics
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FARGO — North Dakota State freshman Abby Graham had a meteoric first half Thursday night at Scheels Center at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

Graham pour in 20 points in the opening 20 minutes to spark the Bison to a 71-43 victory against Denver in Summit League women's basketball before 548 fans.

"When she's hitting shots and she's having fun out there, everyone else is having fun," said Bison forward Emily Behnke, who had a game-high and career-high 12 rebounds.

Graham finished with a career-high 22 points on 8-for-9 shooting from the floor, including three 3-pointers.

"Teammates were finding me and I kind of hit the first few so my confidence just grew from there," said Graham, from Portland, Ore.


North Dakota State guard Heaven Hamling (11) elevates for a shot against the Denver Pioneers on Thursday in Summit League women's basketball at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
Zachary Lucy / NDSU Athletics

The Bison (11-5, 5-1 SL) have won five of their past six games. They have a 7-0 record at home for the first time since the 2004-2005 season. NDSU finished that year 14-0 at home.

"I though we played as good a defensive game as we've played all year," said Bison head coach Jory Collins.

NDSU limited the Pioneers to four points in the fourth quarter. Denver shot 27% (16 of 59) from the floor and 27% (4 of 15) from 3-point range. The Bison finished the game with their largest lead and Denver couldn't cut the Bison lead to single digits after halftime.

"Every day we're hungry, we're hungry for a winning season this year," Behnke said. "Every game we're coming in strong, we're preparing the same way for every team."

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The 5-foot-10 Graham gave the Bison an instant lift off the bench with nine points in the first quarter. She scored those points in a span of less than five minutes and helped NDSU built a 22-15 lead through 10 minutes. Graham was 3-for-3 from the floor and 2-for-2 from the foul line in the opening quarter.

"When she's happy, everyone kind of feeds off of that so I think that was good for us," Behnke said.

NDSU scored the final seven points of the first quarter and the first four points of the second quarter to spark an 18-1 run. Graham capped that run with a drive and basket for a 33-16 lead with 6:53 to play in the first half.

The Bison, who led by as many as 22 points in the first two quarters, took a 44-25 lead into halftime.


Graham finished with 20 points in the first half on 7-for-8 shooting from the floor, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. She made her first seven shots from the floor and her first miss from the field came with 35 seconds to play in the second quarter. That strong start from Graham and the Bison proved too much for Denver to overcome.

"It was really fun for our bench and for everybody to see her have a pretty good moment right there," Collins said. "I mean 20 in the first half is pretty great."

UD 15 25 39 43
NDSU 22 44 54 71

UD (7-9, 3-2 SL): Smith 1-7 1-2 4, Brandon 2-8 0-0 5, Haar 4-12 3-3 12, Minett 1-4 0-0 2, Wilson 0-2 0-0 0, Robles 0-2 0-0 0, Atkins 1-2 3-4 6, J. Jones 5-15 0-0 10, Counsel 0-0 0-0 0, M. Jones 1-4 0-2 2, Malonga 0-1 0-0 0, Forney 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-59 7-11 43.

NDSU (11-5, 5-1): Hamling 4-9 2-2 13, Brown 3-8 0-0 7, Ekofo Yomane 0-1 0-0 0, Evans 3-8 0-0 6, Schulte 2-4 0-1 4, Draper 3-7 2-6 8, Baldwin 3-4 0-0 6, Graham 8-9 3-4 22, Novak 1-2 0-0 2, Behnke 1-3 1-4 3, Olson 0-0 0-0 0, Hildebrandt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-55 8-17 71.

3-point goals: UD 4-15 (Smith 1-3, Brandon 1-1, Haar 1-4, Wilson 0-2, Robles 0-1, Atkins 1-2, J. Jones 0-2), NDSU 7-12 (Hamling 3-5, Brown 1-1, Evans 0-1, Schulte 0-1, Draper 0-1, Graham 3-3). Total fouls: UD 18, NDSU 20. Rebounds: UD 32 (Smith 7, Minett 7), NDSU 41 (Behnke 12). Assists: UD 6 (six players with 1), NDSU 16 (Hamling 4, Schulte 4). Turnovers: UD 16, NDSU 15.

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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