The Bison battle adversity early in the statement win.
The North Dakota State University women’s basketball team shocked the University of Minnesota with an emphatic win on Thursday, November 17th at Scheels Center in Fargo.
The game started off tense, with both teams’ defenses holding firm. The score after five minutes was 4-4. In the sixth minute, however, Minnesota snuck out on a 6-0 run, forcing an NDSU timeout with 3:44 to go in the first. Throughout the run, the Bison were unable to convert on the few looks they got from the perimeter. Coming out of the timeout, the Herd was scrappy on defense, and the offense found success in the paint, cutting the Gopher lead to 12-8.
The second quarter saw NDSU shoot cold from the three-point line. However, the Bison kept pace with Minnesota through their defensive efforts and strong pick-and-roll action. A huge beneficiary of the Bison’s offensive approach was graduate student forward Taylor Brown. Brown provided a spark for the Herd, as her efforts in the paint energized the Fargo crowd heading into a timeout with 4:51 left to go in the half. After this timeout, freshman guard Abby Graham took the game over, scoring a layup and draining a three-pointer in short succession to put the Bison within four. Graham’s impact was crucial for the Herd, as senior guard Heaven Hamling was in a shooting slump and early foul trouble, forcing her to sit on the bench. With 1:46 left in the half, junior guard Abby Schulte made a layup to start a wild run for the Bison. After forcing a Minnesota turnover, the Bison moved the ball down the court to find junior forward Emily Behnke for a layup and a foul. Behnke converted the three-point play to cut the Gopher lead to 27-25. Minnesota then attempted to hit a jump shot with six seconds remaining, however, the shot was blocked by Behnke. The Bison then sprinted down the court and found Abby Graham for a buzzer-beater layup to give NDSU their first lead of the night, 28-27. This crazy 7-0 run to end the half was met with a thunderous uproar from the crowd, giving the Herd much-needed momentum heading into the third.
Both teams came out of halftime fast, but it was NDSU’s impact on the boards that was the difference maker. The Bison converted off of three straight possessions with offensive rebounds, putting the score at 37-33 in their favor heading into a Minnesota timeout with 4:54 left in the quarter. The U of M came out of the timeout fast, gaining a 38-37 lead and momentum off the back of strong shooting and zone defense. NDSU took a few possessions to crack the new defensive look, but when they did, the Bison quickly matched the Gophers’ intensity. The two teams went back and forth to end the quarter with NDSU up 46-43.
The atmosphere in the arena was electric to start the fourth quarter, as the fans could smell a Bison upset brewing. The Bison may have gotten swept up in the energy, as they made costly mistakes to start the quarter. Head coach Jory Collins said, “You could feel it on the bench and in the game. It makes you run a little faster, jump a little higher, pass the ball a little harder, and not catch it as well. But as we settled down in the environment it showed.” Despite continued cold shooting from Heaven Hamling, the Bison frontcourt led the starting unit to successful possessions to put the Herd up seven, causing a Minnesota timeout with 7:30 to go in the game. Proceeding this timeout, both teams started hitting shots, as the score quickly grew to 62-54 in NDSU’s favor. The Gophers then went on a 7-0 run to cut the Bison lead to one. However, Bison guard Heaven Hamling drained a clutch three-pointer with 2:45 remaining to halt the Minnesota run. Hamling then hit another clutch jump shot with 53 seconds left to bring the Bison to five, in an attempt to put the game away. However, the Bison gave up a turnover, which the Gophers converted to bring the lead down to three. Thankfully for the Herd, freshman guard Elle Evans sank three free throws to put the nail in the Gophers’ coffin, sealing the statement win for NDSU.
Taylor Brown had a crucial performance with Heaven Hamling struggling for most of the game. Brown put up a double-double, as she scored a game-high 16 points on 63 percent shooting and got 10 rebounds for the Herd. “She’s played in big games,” head coach Jory Collins said about her performance. “And that veteran presence out there was really good for us, she made some big shots at some big times.”
Minnesota, a Power Five conference team, drew a big crowd that was loud and energetic throughout the entire game. After the game, Taylor Brown noted, “The crowd was absolutely great, when we made big shots it was super encouraging to hear everyone cheering us on and it kept us going.” Emily Behnke added, “as a team making big plays, when you hear the crowd go wild, that’s the kind of stuff we feed off of. Having supporters is huge, especially for a big game like this.”
The Bison look to continue their winning streak, as they host the Northern Colorado Bears (3-1) on November 22nd before heading on a road trip to end non-conference play. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at Scheels Center. The game will be streamed live on WDAY Xtra and ESPN+ or available to listeners on Bison 1660AM. Student tickets are available at www.gobison.com/Students.