Tough road trip hurts as NDSU drops into tie for 2nd with UND, Oral Roberts
What was supposed to be the calm before the storm turned into disaster for the North Dakota State University women’s basketball team. NDSU, who came into the weekend fresh off of a devastating loss to South Dakota State, looked to gain back lost momentum heading into the final stretch of conference play and the conference tourney. To do this, they had to be formidable on the road.
“You look at home records, everyone is winning at home at a pretty high rate,” NDSU head coach Jory Collins remarked in a pre-season interview with the Spectrum. “The difference is what you do on the road in league play.”
The Herd looked to solidify top seeding for the upcoming Summit League tournament by winning road games against the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Denver.
Contrary to the Herd’s hopes, the home teams stood strong. On Thursday, NDSU attempted to rally back from a 14-point deficit against UNO, but their efforts fell short losing 63-58. On the ensuing Saturday, the Bison let Denver sprint out to an early advantage that they could not recover from in an 83-71 loss.
NDSU’s late rally falls short against Omaha, 63-58
North Dakota State looked to return to their winning ways as they traveled to Omaha, Neb., to face the Mavericks of the University of Nebraska-Omaha. The last time the two teams met in Fargo, the Herd pulled away and won 83-71. However, NDSU could not consistently find the basket in the first and third, and fell short in the fourth, leading to a 63-58 loss.
Both teams opened by trading baskets, leading to an 11-10 UNO lead before a Bison timeout with 4:13 left to play in the first. After the timeout, the Mavericks stormed out on a 9-2 run to end the first up 20-12. The Herd shot 29.4 percent from the field in the quarter as opposed to a 61.5 percent shooting clinic from UNO.
The second quarter started out with a bang as guard Heaven Hamling drained a triple that looked to put the Bison back in the game. Although the Herd gained a burst of momentum on the first possession, their shots started to run cold. The score laid dormant for four minutes until an Elle Evans layup brought the UNO lead down to five. However, two consecutive three-pointers from the Mavericks nullified the Bison outburst and maintained their advantage. A late jumper from Hamling brought NDSU within five heading into halftime trailing 32-27.
Omaha sprinted out on an early 10-2 run that seemed to squash any hope of a Bison third-quarter lead. This demoralizing run was fueled by Bison turnovers and missed shots. For the rest of the quarter, NDSU played catch-up, while UNO kept adding to their lead, which grew to as much as 14.
The Bison never gave up, however, as they stormed out on a 7-0 run that brought the Herd right back into striking distance. Hamling then drove into the paint and sunk a layup that brought NDSU to within two, 57-55 at the 3:06 mark. The Bison looked to overtake the lead, but the Bison went cold again in the shooting department. Those missed shots allowed the Mavericks to go up by five with 17 seconds to go. Evans then made a lay-in to make it a single-possession game, however, the Bison were forced to foul Omaha guard Grace Cave, who sunk both free throws and sealed the Mavericks’ win, 63-58.
Bison cannot catch up in 83-71 loss to Denver.
The Bison then traveled to Denver, Colo. to face off against the University of Denver Pioneers. The Bison ravaged the Pioneers 71-43 in their previous meeting in Fargo. A main component of the win was the Herd’s defensive impact. However, while NDSU again created multiple opportunities for themselves on Thursday, they were unable to convert them into points, leading to a disappointing loss.
The Pioneers started the game off hot as a firecracker as they shot off to an early 10-2 run. The Bison had their chances, but their shots were not dropping, shooting an abysmal 25 percent from the field while missing all five three-pointers they attempted. The cold shooting led to the Herd trailing 19-11 after one quarter of play.
Heaven Hamling facilitated a scoring outburst at the start of the second that brought the Bison within two. Unfortunately for the Herd, Denver then responded with a scoring run of their own to go up seven with 6:11 remaining in the half. The game was tightly contested, as neither team was able to pull away. A three-pointer from forward Taylor Brown brought NDSU to within one. It seemed as though the Bison had the momentum needed to overtake the Pioneers’ lead. However consecutive fouls killed the Herd’s flow and kickstarted an 8-2 Pioneer run to allow Denver to lead 39-32 heading into halftime.
Coming out of the half, the Bison attempted to bring the lead closer as they found success in the paint and the free-throw line. However, Denver drained two consecutive three-pointers that stunted the Herd’s momentum and extended their lead to 10. NDSU created multiple turnovers in the quarter, but they were unable to effectively convert them into points. The teams traded runs for the rest of the penultimate period, which ended with Denver leading 59-55.
Backed by strong shooting, Denver bolted out on a 7-2 run to try and put the game away early in the fourth quarter. The game then grew stagnant, as neither team could make a shot for three minutes. NDSU broke the cold streak by drawing fouls and converting free throws, bringing the game to within three with 2:33 left in regulation. The Bison had their opportunities to chip away at the deficit, but they ultimately fell short, being forced to foul which led to the 83-71 loss.
NDSU shot 37.1 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three-point range, whereas the Pioneers shot a respective 48.1 percent and 50 percent. This difference in scoring efficiency defined the game, as the Herd was unable to convert off of their opportunities to overtake the Denver lead.
The losses create a three-way tie for the second spot in the conference. NDSU (14-10, 8-6 Summit) shares the spot with UND (15-9, 8-6 Summit) and Oral Roberts (11-14, 8-6 Summit). The Herd looks to return to their winning ways as they face the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday, February 16 at Scheels Center in Fargo. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and WDAY Xtra and available to listen to on Bison1660 radio.
On the following Saturday, the Bison will host Oral Roberts at noon. The game will be televised on ESPN3 and WDAY Xtra. The contest will also be available to listen to on Bison1660 radio. Student tickets for both games are available at gobison.com/student.