North Dakota State had a split bag when it came to the semester break on campus. The overall record of 3-3 on paper does not look the best, but a deeper look gets Bison fans excited.
Two of the three losses came at the Battle on the Border Tournament in Texas. The first was a loss to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros 67-81. NDSU held a comfortable halftime lead over the hosts, but surrendered 47 points in the second half.
The Bison had four players in double digits, led by Taylor Thunstedt with 21. Briana Jones pulled down 10 rebounds for the double-double along with 11 points.
The second game down south ended in similar fashion, this time at the hands of the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. UCSB outrebounded the Bison 47-27, and took the second chance point’s advantage to a 99-59 win.
Once again, the Bison were led by Thunstedt, who dropped 16 points while being named to the All-Tournament team. Right behind her was Sarah Jacobson, who matched her career-high with 14 points.
Back up north, the Bison played host to South Dakota State to open play in the Summit League. The Bison finished last place in the conference last year, and started slow again. The Jackrabbits would leave Fargo with a slim 69-66 win.
The Bison led inside the final minute of the game, but could not put the nail in the coffin, as a late 4-0 burst propelled SDSU.
Thunstedt led the Bison once again with 21 points, including three three-pointers to tie the NDSU all-time record. Jacobson once again netted 14 points.
With the calendar winding down on a forgettable 2016, the Bison ended the year off on a high note. It came by way of a victory in Denver. Thunstedt was the hot hand again, dropping 23 on the Pioneers on route to the 86-80 win.
Helping out Thunstedt was Reilly Jacobson, who added on a career-high 20 points on 9-12 shooting. The Bison outrebounded the Pioneers 43-28 to help secure the victory.
The schedule for the Bison to open 2017 looked a tall order. The South Dakota Coyotes were last season’s conference champions, and the No. 5 ranked Mid-Major squad. The Coyotes left Fargo with the L, as the Bison won 83-73.
The Bison defense limited USD to just .366 shooting, including .267 from behind the arch. NDSU was holding a slim lead, before a 15-5 run but the game away in the second half. During that stretch, scored six of her nine points from three-point range. Adding to that was five points from Kennedy Childers and four of Thunstedt 19 points.
For the junior Thunstedt, she became the 33rd player in program history to reach the 1,000-point mark. Sarah Jacobson added career-high 18 to help push the Bison to the upset.
The good feelings continued for the Bison when they played host to Fort Wayne. Behind a 25-11 point second quarter, the win streak for the Bison reached three with the 68-56 victory.
The Bison did it with efficient shooting, with a shooting percentage of .519. As she has done most of the season, it was Thunstedt leading the way for the Bison, this time with 16 points. She ranks third in the League with 17.4 points per game.
Once again, the battle on the glass was won by NDSU. Brianna Jones had 10 for the Bison, and along with 14 points, the double-double. She is also third in the Summit League with 8.4 rebounds per game.
The Bison now sit at an overall record of 5-12 (3-1 Summit League). That is already more conference wins than all of last year, and just two wins shy of last year’s overall total. They also sit on a four-way tie at the top of the conference, and will make a trip to one of those teams this weekend, as they go to Western Illinois on Saturday.