After a 3-1 start to the Summit League, the North Dakota State women’s basketball team finds itself on a three-game skid. Approaching the half-way point of the season, it is now or never for the team.
The last three losses have dropped the Bison from a three-way tie for the conference lead to joint fifth with Omaha and Oral Roberts. They 3-4 mark in the Summit puts them three games up on last-place Fort Wayne. The Bison were in that spot last year and were left out of the postseason after finishing ninth.
In terms of overall record, the Bison are where they should be. When they were atop the standings, the overall record of 5-12 looked a bit out of place. Now, the teams the above the Bison have better records, and those below have worse.
So where has it gone wrong for the Bison? Shooting just 39.5% from the field may have something to do with it. In terms of points scored, it doesn’t look too bad, with the Bison scoring 81, 60, 58 in the three losses. But that 81 against Western Illinois came by shooting 78 times. The Bison are scoring juts 1.06 points per attempt from the field.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has been not been as sharp as of late. Opponents have shot four percent better in this losing streak.
The good news though, is that the Bison have been able to take care down low. NDSU has been +2.8 on rebounds this season, and that number has been consistent. Briana Jones leads the Summit League with 8.1 rebounds per game, and Emily Spier ranks ninth with 6.6.
Now comes the true test for the squad that has six freshmen. The team has had success against some of the top teams in the conference, but now they will have to go through them one more time.
Head coach Maren Walseth says that, “we use that in a healthy balance of not being over-confident, but knowing that these are players we were successful against.”
That starts with Thursday night’s matchup with South Dakota. USD lost at the SHAC last month, and will look for a bit of revenge. The Coyotes sit a half game back of South Dakota State at the top.
The Bison will have to go through each of the Summit League members one more time, with the exception of Oral Roberts. NDSU will host ORU on Saturday, and then will finish the regular season with a trip to Tulsa.
While it looks like the Bison should be able make the trip to Sioux Falls in March, some works has to be done to get there, and even more if they want and extended stay.
Running the table at home would do a world of good for the Bison. Along with ORU, Western Illinois, Denver, and IUPUI still need to make their inaugural trips to the SHAC. Denver currently sits two games behind NDSU, so they will look for the swing in the standings.
The kryptonite for the Bison in past years has been road games. If they want to make sure that they can get to the postseason, a win at Fort Wayne will be key. NDSU beat the Mastodons at home 68-56, and will need a similar performance Summit League cellar dwellers don’t start a climb up the standings.