Nudell, Zivaljevic Save NDSU, Postseason Hopes

Bison use 19-4 burst to comeback against Omaha

Tyrah Spencer, Marina Fernandez, head coach Maren Walseth and Hanna Norman during the Senior Day celebration.

A fourth-quarter explosion all but secured a berth in the Summit League Tournament for the North Dakota State Bison. Sofija Zivaljevic and Rylee Nudell combined for 20 of the Bison’s 29 points to beat Omaha 55-48 on Senior Day at the SHAC.

NDSU improved to 4-11 in the Summit League and hold a two-game cushion over last-place Fort Wayne with two games to play in the regular season.

Early on though, the victory looked like a longshot. NDSU was able to bookend a 10-0 run with 3-pointers from Nudell and Michelle Gaislerova to keep close during the Mavericks’ most dominant stretch.

A cool stretch for the Bison followed, but Omaha struggled to pull away. Emily Dietz got to the free throw line to break a 3-minute scoreless streak with her first of two attempts. The second clanged off the rim, but the sophomore forced a turnover and finished the inverse 3-point play with a lay-in to finish the possession.

The second frame featured a total of 14 points for the two teams. NDSU didn’t connect on a field goal until Gaislerova stepped back for two midway through the quarter. Omaha’s struggles were greater, going just 1 for 12 from the field. NDSU cut the lead to 22-23 at the break.

“The first 30 minutes were no offensive clinic,” Bison head coach Maren Walseth said.

With it all to play for in the second half, both teams came out colder than a polar vortex. Omaha tallied the first points of the half after three minutes of play. This started a long 8-0 run, which was more of a jog as Omaha shot just 3 for 12 before Dietz got the Bison on the board after seven minutes of play.

Dietz’s made basket was one of only two by the Bison in the quarter after missing their first 11 shots. Omaha was not much better from the field, but were still able to pull ahead with a 34-26 lead.

The final 10 minutes saw the teams swap runs. Nudell registered seven points in just over three minutes to bring the Bison back within a possession. NDSU got within one before Omaha took advantage of consecutive turnovers by the Bison to blitz a 7-0 run.

But then Zivaljevic took over for the Bison. Finishing through contact, the junior converted a 3-point play that gave the Mavericks five fouls in the quarter, putting NDSU into the bonus.

Dietz came up with a block at the other end, and Zivaljevic quickly drove to put the Bison within one. Another defensive effort gave Zivaljevic a chance to tie it from the charity stripe. The Iowa State transfer raced for a long rebound off an Omaha miss and took a body check just after collecting the ball. Zivaljevic hit both free throws to even the score.

“We knew that if we wanted to win the game, we had to stick together. I think that’s exactly what we did,” Zivaljevic said.

Dietz got to the free throw line and hit twice to give the Bison their first lead since the opening moments of the game.

Nudell gave the Bison some more space with a 3-pointer, and NDSU went 6 for 8 down the stretch from the line to ice the game. The Bison ended the game with a 19-4 run over the last 5:30 to win the game.

“Playing hard and seeing the ball go through the hoop really helped that fourth quarter,” Nudell said. NDSU shot 86 percent in the fourth quarter from the field and 81 percent from the line.

NDSU wrap up the regular season with a mid-week trip to South Dakota before closing the season out at Fort Wayne on Saturday.

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