If there is one thing that is holding the North Dakota State women’s basketball team back from winning more games, it is inconsistency over the course of 40 minutes.
Against the University of Nebraska-Omaha Saturday, they made it 30 minutes before seemingly running out of gas.
A back-and-forth affair broke out between the Bison and Mavericks for three quarters. Omaha took a 17-13 lead out of the first quarter. The lead had been as a large as seven before Sarah Jacobson knocked down a three in the dying moments of the quarter.
The Bison defense flexed its muscles in the second, holding UNO scoreless for over four minutes. The Bison took advantage with a 12-0 run. Senior Taylor Thunstedt, on her final home game as a Bison, polished off the run with a three, giving the Bison a nine-point advantage.
Omaha responded by converting their last three shots to cut the Bison lead to 33-29 at halftime.
The third stanza was once again a back-and-forth affair, with Michelle Giaslerova cutting to the lane and knocking down a floater to give the Bison a three-point lead heading to the fourth.
In the fourth, the game ground to a halt.
Jess Walter brought the Mavericks to within one with a layup 16 seconds into the frame. For the next four and a half minutes, the time was the only thing moving on the scoreboard.
NDSU missed three shots in that span, turning the ball over four more times. UNO missed three shots as well, adding a pair of turnovers.
“I think we got a little stagnate with what we were doing,” Thunstedt said. “We should have been more upbeat with what we were doing.”
“We were running into each other, not aware of what our teammates were doing, which caused players to take shots that they are capable of making but were rushed,” Bison head coach Maren Walseth said.
The Bison finally added points when Tyrah Spencer took two points from the charity stripe midway through the quarter.
Thunstedt converted the Bison’s first field goal with a layup on the next offensive possession. The shot extended the lead to five with 4:41 left to play.
Claire Killian scored two at the other end to make it a one-possession game. For the next two minutes, the scoreboard stayed still again.
The only thing that had been more rare in the game than two-plus minutes of scoreless action was an Omaha three-pointer. The Mavericks had just a pair in the game entering the final two minutes, but they hit the shots when it counted.
Amber Vidal tied the game with a three with 1:54 to play. Killian ended the Bison’s next possession early with a steal and converted the three to give Omaha the lead.
“I was pleased with how we were able to scramble, pleased with how we were able to navigate ball-screens,” Walseth said. “I was pleased with a lot of components of the defense.”
With their hopes nearly gone, NDSU worked deep into the shot clock at the other end. Sarah Jacobson dribbled behind a screen set behind Reilly Jacobson and knocked down the three to tie the game.
But Vidal would put in the dagger at the other end. With 2.7 seconds, she sank a step-back jumper to give the Mavericks the lead.
NDSU called timeout to draw up one final play. The inbounds pass was lofted up to Reilly Jacobson in the paint, but the sophomore was unable to corral the pass, and Omaha held on to win 59-57.
“That ball was supposed to get to me and depending on the time, it was either supposed to be a layup or a three-pointer for Taylor,” Jacobson said. “It was a tough play.”
“We were looking for a couple of screen actions and then the first available shot,” Walseth said about the final play. “The paint was extremely clogged, credit to Omaha’s defense, and we couldn’t get the pass we were looking for.”
Thunstedt finished with 14 points to lead the Bison. Reilly Jacobson was one board away from a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds.
NDSU will take the seventh seed into the Summit League Tournament in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Bison will play South Dakota State on Saturday. The Jacks won both games this season, 83-63 in Brookings and 85-64 in Fargo.