Working backward, an exhibition loss to the University of Minnesota-Duluth will be the missing loss for the North Dakota State Bison women’s basketball team.
On Tuesday night, games started counting for the record. NDSU can feel fortunate to get out with a win against NAIA school Mayville State with a final score of 49-43.
“In some respects, it was the response we could get,” Bison head coach Maren Walseth said. “We are a better basketball team.
“But given what we saw last Tuesday to this Tuesday, we are moving in the right direction.”
It took a while for shots to fall, and when they did, they were in the Bison’s favor. Emily Dietz kicked off the Bison’s regular season scoring after claiming an offensive rebound. Rylee Nudell, Tyrah Spencer and Michelle Gaislerova added points in short succession as the guests turned the ball over three times in the early going.
But shots stopped falling at one end and started falling at the other.
Nicole Bunting snapped the 9-0 run for the Bison and got Mayville State on the board. Kylee Heurung hit the first three for the Comets, as NDSU shooters went cold.
Danneka Voegeli snapped a scoring drought of over five minutes for the hosts late in the first. Heurung canceled out the Winona, Minnesota native’s first NDSU points to bring the scoreboard to 11-9 in the host favor after the first quarter.
The combination of Bunting and Heurung quickly hit from behind the arc to give the Comets the lead early in the second.
NDSU trailed until the dying moments of the half. Nudell spun to the rim for the layup and was able to finish with contact. The 3-point play handed the Bison a 24-22 lead going into the locker room.
The second half got underway like a ping-pong match. Neither team could pull away until Spencer knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer. NDSU opened up a four-point lead, which they would never relinquish.
But that’s not to say Mayville State was ever out of the contest. The Comets continued to lay down a barrage of 3-point attempts. Thankfully for the Bison, Mayville State’s 3-point shooting was as accurate as a meteor shower. The Comets finished hitting just 19 percent of their 32 3-point attempts.
“We have to have some more ball pressure, get them to play further away from the 3-point line.” Spencer said.
NDSU opened a 10-point lead early in the fourth quarter on consecutive buckets from Nudell. Despite the double-digit lead, the Bison never put the Comets away.
Heurung, the only Comet consistently connecting from deep, drilled her third 3-pointer of the night to bring Mayville to within three points with two minutes left to play.
The Bison finally got a response to put away the guests. Gaislerova, 0-7 from three to this point, knocked down the dagger 3-pointer to cap off the scoring.
“I just tried to not think about it,” Gaislerova said. “I was encouraged by my teammates and by the coaches to not think about that last one.”
Gaislerova and Spencer led the Bison with 13 points, a career-high for the latter. It was a night where the Bison needed players to step up in the absence of Sarah and Reilly Jacobson, the two leading scorers from last season.
NDSU returns to action at the Scheels Center on Friday night to host Creighton. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m.