NDSU get first win in Fargo in seven years
BRITTANY HOFMANN | THE SPECTRUM
NDSU held the Leathernecks to just 34 percent shooting.
Basketball, above all other sports, is a game of streaks. Those streaks are meant to be broken, and the North Dakota State women’s basketball team broke a large streak by a conference foe.
The Bison downed Western Illinois 68-60, the first victory for the Bison in the last 11 games against the Leathernecks and the first in Fargo since 2012.
NDSU got their top two players going early, keeping pace with a high-octane Leatherneck offense. Junior Tyrah Spencer and sophomore Michelle Gaislerova hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions late in the first quarter to give the Bison a comfortable four-point lead.
Sofija Zivaljevic drained a jumper to give the Bison a 17-11 lead at the first break. Gaislerova picked up right where she left off, draining another 3-pointer to cap off the 13-0 run.
“We have great shooters on our team,” Bison head coach Maren Walseth said. “For us to shoot over 50 percent tonight certainly speaks to the decisiveness and not shying away from the moment.”
NDSU were in control through the middle portion of the quarter, and then the wheels started to fall off. The Bison committed four of their nine turnovers in a 3:30 span, allowing the Leatherneck offense to flow.
Taylor Higginbotham, one of the best long-range shooters in the Summit League, connected from 3-point range to give the Leathernecks a lead. Annebel Graettinger drilled a kick-out 3-pointer with five seconds left in the half to finish off a 14-2 run for the guests.
Spencer and Gaislerova registered 22 of the 30 points for the Bison in the first 20 minutes. Expecting adjustments defensively to close down the pair, the supporting cast stepped up.
Five consecutive points from Marina Fernandez squared up the score three minutes into the frame. The WIU offense kept getting buckets, but a pair of pull up jumpers from Cirkeline Rimdal kept the Bison close.
“Don’t be surprised when you are open,” Walseth said. “Someone like Cirkeline, with her family in the stands today, didn’t shy away from the moment.”
Gaislerova connected twice from the charity stripe and a lay-in to tie the game once again as the third quarter wound down. On the last possession of the quarter, Zivaljevic drove to the rim to give the Bison the lead at 49-47.
From there, the two teams traded baskets. A catch and shoot jumper from Gaislerova gave the Bison a five-point lead, the largest gap in the first five minutes of the quarter. A scoring draught followed for the Bison, allowing the Leathernecks to tie the lead again.
Gaislerova knocked down the dagger 3-pointer, bringing her total to 29 points on the night. Rylee Nudell put in a layup before the Bison hit three from the charity stripe to take the lead 68-60.
“We all know Michelle is a good shooter. She never questions herself; her teammates never questioned her ability to make a shot,” Walseth said.
“What you saw from the Bison was a great execution of a game plan,” Walseth said. “Execution comes from belief in yourself, trust in their teammates and trust in the coaching staff.”
The 29 points were one shy of a career high for Gaislerova, going back to her 30-point performance against Northern Illinois. Spencer finished the evening with 9, and Zivaljevic chipped in 8.
After two weeks of single game weeks, the Bison will play a pair of games this week: a midweek trip to Denver on Thursday before returning to Fargo to face in-state rival North Dakota Sunday afternoon.