Bison women send three seniors off in style with big win over ORU
North Dakota State hits 100 points for the first time since 2018 behind Heaven Hamling's 29 points on Saturday.
FARGO — As senior send offs go, North Dakota State threw a grand party for its three players in their last home game Saturday. Forwards Taylor Brown and Emily Behnke and guard Rachel Novak got more than a framed photo of themselves, they and the rest of their teammates got some much-needed momentum with the Summit League tournament right around the corner.
Brown had 18 points and 9 rebounds to back Heaven Hamling’s 29 points and 6 assists to lead the Bison to a 103-86 win over Oral Roberts. It was the first visit to triple digits for the Bison since a 2019 win at New Jersey Institute of Technology.
“That was amazing,” Brown said. “For us to play that well on both ends of the floor and have so much energy throughout the entire game, getting to leave it all out there for the last game was unreal. I’ll never forget it.”
Behnke and Novak have eligibility remaining but are graduating and moving on. Brown is a fifth-year transfer from American University in Washington, D.C. She was visibly emotional during a video tribute to the three seniors before the game.
“Heaven told me to get it together, get ready for the game,” Brown said. “So I brushed back the tears and was ready to play.”
So was everybody else. Hamling hit 10 of 17 shots, Brown was 8 of 11 from the field and guard Elle Evans was steady with 17 points and 5 blocked shots.
The offensive explosion came against an opponent in Oral Roberts that didn’t look real interested in playing defense; the Golden Eagles gave up at least 100 points for the sixth time this season.
NDSU didn’t care. The Bison improved to 11-1 at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
“We like to protect this thing,” Hamling said of the SHAC, “and we have a group of kids who really stuck to that this year. We grinded it out in some games and other games we just thrived off the energy.”
The Golden Eagles, who gave up 108 in an eight-point loss at North Dakota on Thursday, continued that defensive trend in the first half. Plus, they dealt with foul trouble.
Delaney Nix, the leading 3-point shooter in the Summit, went to the bench with three fouls in the second quarter in a first half that saw six Golden Eagles players have at least two fouls. The Bison built a consistent double digit lead by being more active both offensively and defensively, and took a 52-41 lead into halftime.
Three straight Brown field goals to open the fourth quarter made it 79-61 and the Bison were rolling. Nix heated up in the fourth quarter with three 3-pointers, a couple of the deep bomb variety that cut the margin to eight, but leading scorer Hannah Cooper fouled out and the Bison still led by 13 almost halfway through the quarter.
Treys from Evans and Hamling a couple of minutes later expanded the lead to 20.
“I thought this was one of the funnest games of my career at the SHAC,” Hamling said. “Everybody was hitting. We hit 100 points and I think I’ll remember this one forever.”
Not to be overlooked was the contribution of NDSU’s bench players like forward Kristinia Ekofo Yomane, who had 8 points and 7 rebounds in the first half.
“It’s a special day, I mean our team gets along great, they love our three seniors,” said Bison head coach Jory Collins. “I know they all wanted to play well for them and were going to bring some energy. Everybody who checked in just had some extra juice today.”
With the win, the Bison need at least a split in next weekend’s road games at Western Illinois and St. Thomas to clinch at least a No. 3 seed for the Summit tournament. A sweep would guarantee them the No. 2 spot, which would be the highest seed NDSU has taken into the tourney.
“I think it’s great to have momentum, especially the confidence you need to play against really good teams,” Brown said. “We just have to keep it going into the tournament.”
ORU 21 41 61 86
NDSU 25 52 73 103
ORU (11-15, 8-7 Summit): Udoumoh 7-10 1-2 15, Moore 3-10 3-4 9, Cooper 5-10 2-2 12, Walker 8-19 2-4 24, Nix 4-11 4-4 16, Ramey 2-5 0-0 5, Rodrigues 1-2 0-2 2, Taylor 1-6 1-4 3, Pogi 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 31-74 13-22.NDSU (15-10, 9-6 Summit): Brown 8-11 1-2 18, Behnke 2-3 4-8 8, Hamling 10-17 6-8 29, Novak 2-2 0-0 4, Schulte 1-3 3-8 5, Evans 6-12 1-2 17, Draper 3-5 1-2 8, Ekofo Yomane 3-3 2-2 8, Graham 2-3 0-0 6, Hildebrandt 0-0 0-0 0, Baldwin 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 37-59 18-32.Total fouls: ORU 26, NDSU 22. Fouled out: Rodrigues, Cooper, Behnke. Rebounds: ORU 31 (Moore 10); NDSU 42 (Brown 9). 3-point goals: ORU 11-24 (Walker 6-11, Nix 4-9, Ramey 1-2, Taylor 0-2); NDSU 11-21 (Brown 1-2, Hamling 3-8, Evans 1-2, Draper 1-2, Graham 2-3). Assists: ORU 14 (Cooper 6); NDSU 23 (Hamling 6). Turnovers: ORU 13 (Udoumoh, Nix 3); NDSU 20 (Evans 6). A-782.