Bison women get back on track as tournament time draws near

Huge fourth quarter propels NDSU over Kansas City, 86-75

NDSU beat the Roos in Kansas City 75-66 in early January in a scrappy, foul-filled game. Thursday’s matchup was no different.

The Roos pounded the paint early in an offensive attack spearheaded by forward Tamia Ugass, who racked up four points and two rebounds in just the first two possessions. NDSU junior guard Abby Schulte provided an offensive punch for the Herd as she sank a three-pointer, then converted on a three-point play to put the Bison up 9-6 early. Both teams then traded respective baskets until a media timeout was triggered. 

Coming out of the timeout, the Roos switched to a 3-2 defensive zone that caused multiple NDSU turnovers. This defense from UMKC halted the usually active Bison offense, which was forced to rely on three-point shooting. Thankfully for NDSU, Heaven Hamling sank a three to keep the Bison on top, leading 20-19 at the end of the first quarter 

UMKC pounded the paint at the start of the second, eventually tying the game up at 23 following careless NDSU turnovers. The Bison looked lost on the defensive end as they implemented a 3-2 zone of their own to try and circumvent the Roos’ paint presence. Sloppy play ensued for the Herd, however, UMKC was unable to pull away with the game. 

NDSU was able to recover from their woes and tie the game at 27 with 5:24 remaining in the half. A wild sequence commenced when both teams traded two respective three-pointers in consecutive possessions. A timeout from UM-KC stopped the pseudo ‘three-point contest.’

              After the timeout, turnovers continued to plague the Bison, and the Roos started to capitalize. UMKC sprinted out on a 7-0 run to end the second quarter leading 42-36.

              To try and increase offensive production in the second half, NDSU ran set plays, however, they couldn’t convert which led to UMKC maintaining their lead.

              Fouls started to become a problem for the Roos as they picked up their fifth team foul with six minutes remaining. UMKC’s shooting ran cold as the Herd inched closer and closer to their lead. The Bison converted from the free throw line, tying the game up at 51 with 4:10 left to go in the third.

NDSU guard Abby Schulte dribbles past UM-Kansas City guard Rain Green on Thursday night at Scheels Center. Schulte and the Bison defeated the Roos 86-75 in Summit League play.
Photo Courtesy | Hayden Austin – the Spectrum

              NDSU’s offense started heating up, as Elle Evans drained a three that put the Herd up 56-54. However, the Bison then got into foul trouble themselves, allowing UMKC to retake the lead at the end of three, 62-60.

              The pace of the game was determined by fouls and stoppages up until the fourth quarter. NDSU came out of the break and dictated the pace sprinting out on a 16-4 run much to the delight of the Scheels Center crowd. 

              The Bison finally found success inside the paint as Hamling scored off a beautiful tear-drop floater to give NDSU their first double-digit lead of the night, 82-71. 

              The Herd took total control of their newfound momentum and used it to close out the Roos, winning 86-75.

              Although there was adversity, NDSU fought back and overcame it to secure the season sweep of UMKC and set the tone for the rest of their regular season schedule.

Bison sail past ORU en route to 103-86 victory on Senior Day

The Bison continued their quest for the second seed as they hosted the University of Oral Roberts on Saturday at Scheels Center in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. 

              North Dakota State dropped a game to ORU earlier in the season, 75-53. The Golden Eagles’ forward Tirzah Moore torched the Herd, posting 30 points and 15 rebounds in their winning effort. Moore is not the only ace Oral Roberts had up their sleeve, as they also boast the Summit League’s leading scorer, Hannah Cooper. Cooper is averaging 20.8 points per game for ORU. The Herd had to contain the duo in order to triumph and stay afloat for the two seed. 

It was Senior Day for NDSU, as forwards Taylor Brown and Emily Behnke, as well as guard Rachel Novak, were honored before the game. This celebratory ceremony gave the Herd needed energy.

“It was a special day,” NDSU Head Coach Jory Collins remarked post-game. “Our team wanted to play well for them (the seniors), and it seemed that everyone that checked in had a little extra juice today.”

              Both teams came out of the gate fast, getting good looks off turnovers. The momentum seemed to be at equilibrium, as neither team seemed in front. The tide then turned in favor of the Bison, as true freshman Elle Evans blocked an Eagles shot and dished the ball out to Heaven Hamling who converted an and-one opportunity that electrified the NDSU bench and the crowd inside the SHAC.

              Hannah Cooper got into early foul trouble and was taken out with eight minutes to go in the first quarter. This hindered the Eagles’ offense and allowed the Bison to play more aggressively with Moore down low. The Herd double-teamed Moore, challenging ORU’s shooters to take and make shots. This defensive strategy worked dividends for NDSU, creating many turnovers and fastbreak opportunities.

 ORU was forced to take a timeout with 4:40 remaining in the first as NDSU led 14-11.

 Unfortunately for the Bison, Oral Roberts started hitting from three-point range, hitting two consecutive threes to tip the game in their favor. 

Heaven Hamling drew immense pressure from the ORU defense however, leading to an Abbie Draper three to put NDSU up 25-21 at the end of the first.

The Bison bench brought a burst of energy in the second, spearheading a 6-0 run that put the Herd up 41-31 with 4:11 to play in the half, forcing an Eagles timeout. After the timeout, NDSU continued to attack the offense end, maintaining their advantage. Oral Roberts started to find success on backdoor cuts, narrowing the Bison lead to nine with 1:10 to play in the half. A wild sequence then occurred when Elle Evans blocked an Eagles’ shot as time dwindled down. Evans found Hamling, who laid it in as the buzzer sounded, putting the Herd up 52-41 at the end of two.

The Bison opened up the third with a turnover that led to an ORU three. NDSU lacked energy early and there were fears that the Eagles could take over. Oral Roberts guard Ariel Walker was having herself a day from three-point range, sinking six of her 11 tries in the game. Her shooting kept the Eagles within striking distance. The Bison were having trouble shooting free throws, but their presence on the boards kept the offense flowing steady with second-chance points, circumventing the three-point brigade. 

NDSU continued to shut down Moore, but Walker continued to torch the defense midway through the third. 

The Bison answered back with two threes of their own, hushing the Eagles’ bench and bringing the lead to 13. ORU then started to employ a full-court trap causing turnovers and confusion. This pressure forced an NDSU timeout with the Herd up 67-56. Coming out of the timeout, the Bison started to break down the trap through smart cuts and passing, leading to fastbreak opportunities that got the Bison offense back on track.

              ORU stayed competitive, but the Herd kept their foot on the gas, leading 73-61 at the end of three.

The Bison started to lean on Taylor Brown early in the fourth. The Herd found Brown inside on three sequential possessions after breaking down the ORU press. However, the trap caused as much hurt as it helped the Herd, as the Eagles were once again heating up from three-point range off the backs of NDSU turnovers, chipping away at the Bison lead.

              Oral Roberts’ Hannah Cooper fouled out of the game with 6:10 remaining, a huge detriment to their comeback efforts. Cooper was held to a mere 12 points. Tirzah Moore started finding slight success on offense, but the damage was already done. Moore was held to just nine points on 3-10 shooting, a huge contrast to their game earlier this season.

              Heaven Hamling continued to pace the Bison, who remained steady and grew their lead to as much as 20 with 3:39 remaining in the game. The Herd remained potent on offense and topped 100 points for the first time since 2019.

              The final horn sounded and NDSU picked up a win in their final home game. The Herd ended the season 11-1 at home, their best home record since the 2004-05 season.

              Hamling ended with 29 points on 10-17 shooting. Evans racked up five blocks and put up 17 points. Taylor Brown scored 18 points and got nine rebounds in her last game in Fargo.

For her performance over the weekend, Heaven Hamling was named the TicketSmarter Summit League Peak Performer of the Week, the league office announced. Hamling averaged a team-high 25.0 points per game while shooting 62.1 percent (18-29) from the field and 50.0 percent (8-16) from behind the arc. The Grand Rapids, Minn., native also added a team-high 11 assists with six rebounds and four steals to her stat line.

              The Bison now prepare for two fierce road battles against the University of St. Thomas and Western Illinois University. If they want to obtain the second seed in the Summit League tournament, they must bottle up their momentum from this weekend and play strong on Thursday in St. Paul, Minn., and Saturday in Macomb, Ill.            

This second seed would be crucial for the Herd, as it not only means avoiding South Dakota State until the championship game but also includes an automatic bid to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT). The WNIT invites the second-place regular season team of each conference, granted the first-place team wins.

The Herd (16-10, 10-6 Summit) sits tied for the second spot with the Fighting Hawks of North Dakota (17-9, 10-6 Summit).

              Both games will be available to listeners on Bison 1660. In addition, you can watch the Herd against Western Illinois on ESPN3. Tip-off on Thursday in St. Paul is at 7:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday in Macomb.

Leave a Reply