Hot-shooting Northern Iowa sinks Bison women in home opener
UNI guard Rucker scores 27 points in second straight poor NDSU performance.
FARGO — North Dakota State wasn’t hitting on all five women’s basketball cylinders on Wednesday night. It was hard to find even one or two.
The Bison struggled from the field, had a difficult time containing Northern Iowa guard Karli Rucker and the result was a home opener flop. UNI reversed last year’s outcome on the same Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex floor with a 76-63 nonconference victory.
After an impressive season-opening win at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Bison dropped to 1-2 in a couple of performances that probably won’t fare well against the better teams in the Summit League starting late next month. The Bison were picked third in the Summit preseason poll.
“There’s an arrogance, maybe, that doesn’t need to be there that we haven’t earned or deserved at all and that may be part of our problem,” said NDSU head coach Jory Collins.
Basic ball handling was a problem. The Bison had 19 turnovers to UNI’s six and saw the Panthers come away with 10 steals.
“Just move forward, watch the film and learn from our mistakes,” said Bison guard Ryan Cobbins. “We know we’re a better team than that and we’ll take care of it in practice and on to the next. You have about 15 minutes after each game to dwell on it so we’ll just move forward as quickly as possible and keep in the back of our minds what we need to work on.”
At least NDSU won’t have to face Rucker in conference play. The 5-foot-6 senior guard had 27 points in one of the better offensive performances fans may see at Scheels Center this season. Even when the Bison threatened a rally in the third quarter, she was there for the answer.
“She’s a good player, a veteran player,” Cobbins said. “We just struggled to guard her and hats off to her.”
NDSU hit six straight, the longest run of the night, but Rucker closed the third quarter with two straight 3-pointers for a 66-46 lead. Things were going so well for the Panthers that guard Cailyn Morgan bombed in a shot from the other side of half court, although it didn’t count because the buzzer had already sounded.
The Panthers put the Bison in an early first-quarter hole with nine straight points. NDSU spent the rest of the first half trying to figure out Rucker and her quick bursts to the hoop.
She had 14 of her points in the first two quarters, a significant turnaround from a year ago when she was 3 of 14 from the field.
Rucker finished 11 of 17 from the field and that included missing her last three shots when the Panthers had a big lead.
Also, a year ago, it was the Bison who sprinted to a big halftime lead. This time, the Panthers led 41-29 hitting 16 of 32 shots from the field. It’s not what NDSU had in mind coming off a 71-54 loss at Wisconsin-Green Bay, where the Bison scored only 22 second-half points and shot 32 percent for the game.
“This is the exact same game we played against Green Bay the other day,” Collins said. “Staying in front of the ball. Ball screen defense is a real issue right now. Turning the ball over is an issue right now. They got 13 more shots than we did. Against good teams, not going to be able to overcome those things.”
The starting point to correcting the issues, Collins said, starts with defense. Cobbins said a priority is to keep the team vibe going.
“We need each other more than ever, especially when things aren’t going well,” she said. “I feel like we faced some adversity in the offseason and were able to build good chemistry so we’ll lift each other up and remain confident even when things aren’t going well. It’s something that is important to us.”
UNI 22 41 66 76
NDSU 14 29 46 63
UNI (2-1): Gunnels 3-7 2-2 8, Wolf 0-4 2-2 2, Rucker 11-17 1-2 27, Kroeger 3-6 0-0 7, Finley 4-10 2-2 11, Green 5-8 2-3 12, Boffeli 1-1 4-6 6, McDermott 0-4 0-0 0, Morgan 0-2 0-0 0, McCullough 1-2 0-2 3, Laube 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-61 13-19 76.
NDSU (1-2): Dietz 3-5 2-4 8, Deaton 4-8 0-2 9, Cobbins 4-6 4-4 14, Hamling 3-11 3-3 10, Schulte 1-3 0-0 2, Hopkins 3-8 3-4 10, Skibiel 0-0 0-0 0, Behnke 2-2 3-6 7, Hildebrandt 1-3 0-0 3, Strop 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 21-48 15-25 63.
Total fouls: UNI 19, NDSU 23. Fouled out: Finley. Rebounds: UNI 30 (Boffeli 8); NDSU 38 (Cobbins 8). 3-point goals: UNI 7-21 (Wolf 0-1, Rucker 4-5, Kroeger 1-4, Finley 1-4, Green 0-2, McDermott 0-1, Morgan 0-2, McCullough 1-2); NDSU 6-20 (Deaton 1-2, Cobbins 2-2, Hamling 1-5, Schulte 0-2, Hopkins 1-5, Strop 0-1, Hildebrandt 1-3). Assists: UNI 10 (Rucker 4); NDSU 8 (Hamling 4). Turnovers: UNI 6 (McDermott 3); NDSU 19 (Schulte 5).