WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: North Dakota storms past NAU 71-41
UND was outrebounded last week at Montana — a rarity this season for a physical team that’s leading the Big Sky Conference race.
Apparently, rebounding drills earlier this week in practice paid off.
UND methodically routed Northern Arizona 71-41 on Thursday night before 1,407 fans at The Betty, a win that kept North Dakota in first place in the Big Sky. UND, which was swept on its Montana road trip last week, improved to 12-4 in the league and 17-8 overall while NAU dropped to 5-10 and 8-16.
“It was probably one of our better all-around games,” said UND coach Travis Brewster.
UND led all 40 minutes. Makailah Dyer led UND with 19 points, while Madi Buck added 18. The two UND players were the catalysts in a first-half stretch that allowed UND to pull away. They combined for 12 points in an 18-5 run that pushed UND to a 31-12 lead.
NAU, led by Brittani Lusain’s 25 points, never recovered.
UND’s offense was smooth as the Green and White shot 45 percent and went 4-for-9 on 3-pointers. But its defense — especially rebounding — was the difference. UND outrebounded the Lumberjacks 47-26 and forced NAU into 20 turnovers that led to 21 points.
“Rebounding is our thing,” said point guard Leah Szabla, who had eight points, six rebounds and five assists. “That’s what we take pride in. And we worked on rebounding in practice this week.”
UND’s defense was strong early.
“There was a level of intensity on the defensive end,” said Brewster. “We did a real good job for the first 12 minutes or so of limiting their options. We had good help-side defense.”
On offense, Dyer — a sophomore basically playing her first season of college basketball — was 8-for-14 from the field.
“My teammates just kept feeding me,” she said.
UND’s defense will get perhaps the ultimate test Saturday when Sacramento State comes to The Betty. Sacramento State’s philosophy is to shoot early and often, especially 3-pointers. The Hornets beat UND 110-104 in overtime earlier this season.
“We have the Churchill Downs, Indy 50, track meet or whatever you want to call it coming in,” said Brewster. “We have to play our game.”
UND got a break in the Big Sky race Thursday night when Weber State, which had one win this season in league play, stunned Montana 56-54 in Ogden. Montana was a half-game behind UND when league play resumed Thursday night.
Southern Utah, also a half-game game behind UND, fell 59-54 to Eastern Washington on Thursday night.
Northern Arizona 41
Key play: UND’s 18-5 run for 31-12 lead.
Key player: Makailah Dyer, 19 points.