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Women's basketball: Bison look forward to Gophers tonight

What once was a pre-season women's basketball schedule consisting of area NAIA or NCAA Division II teams is long gone for North Dakota State. The Bison are swimming with bigger fish.

What once was a pre-season women's basketball schedule consisting of area NAIA or NCAA Division II teams is long gone for North Dakota State. The Bison are swimming with bigger fish.

The latest is tonight's annual trip to Minneapolis to play the University of Minnesota.

"We don't have any cupcakes," said Bison forward Abby Plucker. "You know you have to be ready to play, which is a good thing because that should be expected of you."

NDSU is 1-2 after winning at Northern Iowa to open the season before losing at nationally ranked DePaul and at home against Wyoming. Those three teams have a combined record of 9-3 with UNI having all three defeats.

The Gophers are 3-1 after winning their Subway Classic with wins over Illinois-Chicago and Colorado. The one loss was 60-59 at Utah.

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"We need to play tough competition before we get in our conference," said Bison guard Katie Birkel. "It's good so we can have that experience."

They'll get more experience later this week at home. NDSU hosts Ball State (Ind.) Friday night and Denver University Sunday afternoon. Ball State reached the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament, beating Tennessee in the first round.

NDSU owns one win over Minnesota, but that was the lone year the Gophers played at the BSA. Minnesota won

68-56 last year before 4,828 fans.

Williams Arena has been a tough place for Bison teams in recent years. For one, the Gophers are perennially one of the better teams in the Big Ten Conference.

And the atmosphere at Williams can be intimidating.

"You can tell they feel comfortable in their home place," Plucker said. "It's a different atmosphere."

Plucker is one of three Bison players averaging in double figures at 11.0 per game. Freshman center Janae Burich leads the team at 14.3 and forward Ashley Samuelson is at 10.0.

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A key statistic tonight will probably be turnovers, something the Bison have been trying to limit. Head coach Carolyn DeHoff said it's tricky to coach that because she doesn't want to turn her team into robots.

"You still want to be aggressive but at the same time you have to know when to reel it in and make good decisions," Plucker said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

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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