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Impressive Bison women roll Northern Iowa in season opener

North Dakota State's Reneya Hopkins goes up for two against Northern Iowa during their women's basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 2, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO — There was a vibe of this North Dakota State team being better and the Bison certainly walked the talk on Wednesday. Check that, they stomped it.

Quicker. Stronger. Deeper. Better. Name the component essential to good women’s basketball teams and the Bison showed it against Northern Iowa at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

The 85-68 win was the debut of guard Heaven Hamling and all she did was control the game from her point guard spot. The 5-foot-8 sophomore had 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

“The nerves were there the past few days,” Hamling said. “It was great getting back into a game. Once we got rolling, we got rolling.”

There was no questioning that.


It was UNI’s third game and NDSU’s season opener, but it was hard to tell who had any first-game jitters. The Panthers lost 96-81 at Iowa and beat Creighton 55-52 last week.

The Bison had been practicing for what they felt like forever. They morphed right into game speed from the opening tip against a team that was picked to finish third in the Missouri Valley Conference and beat NDSU 95-63 in last year’s season opener.

“I think our confidence,” said Bison center Emily Dietz, in comparing the two games. “As a group, we came into this game expecting to win. I think that showed in the way everybody played collectively as a group.”

That Bison team didn’t have most of the players that were on the floor Wednesday. They were so new that last year’s leading scorer, senior Michelle Gaislerova, wasn’t needed to score until a three-point play with 7 minutes, 11 seconds left in the game.

That made it 68-51 and it was a matter of NDSU holding the lead. The Panthers never cut it under 10 and NDSU heads to back-to-back games this weekend against Wisconsin-Green Bay 1-0.

“I think the biggest thing is attitude and mentality,” said NDSU head coach Jory Collins, in his second year. “I think they believe in what we’re trying to do going into games like this, not just hoping to compete. It’s a mindset I’d love for us to have every time out. … We couldn’t guard these guys last year at all.”

It took a few minutes of the first quarter for the Bison to show noticeable improvement — most notably athleticism. Quicker out front with Hamling and backup Reneya Hopkins, NDSU showed consistent flow on offense in the first two quarters in taking a 42-26 halftime lead.


Hopkins had four assists in that span and a quickness NDSU hasn’t seen on defense in a while.

“Reneya is the energizer,” Hamling said.

An early 8-0 burst got the Bison into a double-digit lead, something that they were able to hold getting 12 points off the bench. Hamling took over in the third quarter to keep the Bison advantage at a comfortable distance. Leading 51-37, she had eight of her team’s next 10 points and the Bison took a 59-43 lead into the final 10 minutes.

The Panthers never got it under double digits.

Dietz equaled Hamling with 20 points. Hopkins and guard Ryan Cobbins had 11 each.

“I think we have the right group of people,” Collins said.


UNI 15 26 43 68

NDSU 25 42 59 85

UNI (1-2): Rucker 3-14 4-6 11, Green 4-12 4-5 12, Kroeger 5-8 0-0 13, Gunnels 1-4 3-6 5 Wolf 2-2 0-0 4, Morgan 0-2 0-2 0, Finley 4-12 3-4 11, McCullough 0-0 0-0 0, Maahs 3-7 3-4 9, Barney 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 23-62 17-27.

NDSU (1-0): Hopkins 4-8 2-3 11, Hamling 7-11 5-6 20, Cobbins 4-6 1-1 11, Gaislerova 2-4 3-3 7, Dietz 8-14 4-4 20, Strop 1-2 0-0 2, Olson 2-2 0-2 4, Behnke 0-0 0-0 0, Skibiel 1-7 3-4 5, Schulte 1-3 2-2 5. Totals: 30-57 20-26.

Total fouls: UNI 22, NDSU 26. Fouled out: Schulte. Rebounds: UNI 36 (Gunnels, Rucker 6); NDSU 35 (Dietz 8). 3-point goals: UNI 5-12 (Rucker 1-5, Green 0-3, Kroeger 3-6, Finley 0-5, Maahs 0-1, Barney 1-1); NDSU 5-10 (Cobbins 2-2, Hamling 1-2, Skibiel 0-4, Schulte 1-1, Hopkins 1-1). Assists: UNI 8 (Rucker 4); NDSU 15 (Hopkins, Hamling 4). Turnovers: UNI 11 (three with 2); NDSU 13 (Olson 3).

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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