UND WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Dyer finds her groove
The sudden emergence of Makailah Dyer came at a perfect time for the UND women’s basketball team.
The sophomore transfer guard from the University of Wisconsin entered the starting lineup last weekend as North Dakota played a pair of road games without starter Mia Loyd, who averages 14.5 points and 10.1 rebounds.
Injected into the starting lineup for the first time, Dyer ran her streak of consecutive games of at least 20 points to three. She’s scored 20, 29 and 23 points in her last three games.
Despite a huge jump in production, UND coach Travis Brewster isn’t surprised.
“She was a scorer in high school,” Brewster said. “She has that ability. Sometimes, you can try too hard. That was part of it. She hadn’t played in a year-and-a-half. That will make you a little rusty.”
Before her recent three-game stretch, Dyer registered 21 total points in her first seven games combined. Since, she has averaged 24 points per game.
“I was trying to find out my role on the team and felt like I wasn’t doing enough,” Dyer said. “I talked to coach, and he said relax and have fun. That was the turning point. Being comfortable and confident was the biggest thing.”
At Madison East High School in 2011, Dyer averaged 24.6 points per game as a senior, ranking second in the state. She was named Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association all-state for the second time.
She committed to Wisconsin out of high school and spent a year and a half in the Badgers program.
Wisconsin was a natural fit for the Madison native. Her mother, Janet Huff, played for the Badgers from 1980-84, earning all-Big Ten honors in 1984. Her aunt, Theresa Huff, also played for the Badgers from 1979-83 and is the only Wisconsin player to have her number retired.
At semester break last year, Dyer transferred to UND in search of more playing time. Dyer didn’t play in any regular-season games with the Badgers in the 2011-2012 season.
The connection to UND was Dyer’s cousin, Troy Huff, who has been a standout for the North Dakota men’s basketball team the past few seasons.
“We were fortunate to have that connection,” Brewster said.
So with NCAA transfer rules requiring Dyer to sit out for one full year, Dyer didn’t become eligible to play until midseason.
“My teammates were great here,” Dyer said. “From the start, even though I wasn’t eligible, they accepted me right away. That was helpful for my confidence. The coaches and my teammates have been patient with me.”
After a slow shooting start, Dyer has started to find her touch. She’s also shown a knack at getting to the basket and finishing strong.
Dyer started the season missing six of her first eight shots from the free-throw line. She’s missed just six over her last 37 attempts since.
“She gives us a lift,” UND leading scorer Madi Buck said. “She brings a different element to the floor. Hats off to her for keeping us in games and giving us a lift.”
Dyer has helped solidify a UND team outperforming its preseason expectations. UND was picked to finish eighth and ninth in preseason Big Sky Conference polls.
Yet, as UND enters a weekend home series against Eastern Washington on Thursday and Portland State on Saturday, North Dakota sits in first place in the league with a 7-2 conference record.
With 11 games left in the regular season, UND has already surpassed its win total from a year ago. UND already has more league wins as well and could potentially clinch a spot in the postseason league tournament in this four-game homestand.
“We wanted two wins on the road (last weekend), but we’re still in first place so we feel pretty good about that,” Dyer said.
Who: Eastern Washington at UND.
When: 7 tonight, Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Radio: The Fan (1440 AM).
Records: UND 7-2, 12-6; EWU 4-4, 8-9.
Of note: UND set a school record for most points in a loss last week in its 110-104 setback at Sacramento State. The 214 combined points also broke the Big Sky single-game record for points.