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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND 69, Portland State 44

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sports Grand Forks, 58203

Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

UND launched the second half of its Big Sky Conference season Saturday against Portland State.

It was a near-flawless launch — one that could lift surprising UND to a Big Sky title especially after the way the Green and White drubbed Portland State before 1,567 fans at The Betty.

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UND’s 69-44 win improved North Dakota to 9-2 in the league and 14-6 overall. UND now has played every team in the league and it’s finally safe to say that North Dakota has a legitimate shot at winning the regular-season title.

The win allowed North Dakota maintain the top spot in the Big Sky with nine games to play. Last season — UND’s first in the Big Sky — North Dakota struggled to get to the six-win mark.

“Our players have earned the right to enjoy this a little bit,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “Some of them had to endure some stuff last year. It’s not going to be easy down the stretch. But it’s good to be done with the first half.”

 Mia Loyd, who sat out last week’s road swing to Sacramento State and Northern Arizona with a leg injury, returned to the starting lineup and dropped 22 points on the Vikings, connecting on 8-of-12 shots as UND managed to develop good looks against the Portland 2-3 zone defense.

Madi Buck finished with 18 while Makailah Dyer ended with 10. All three players managed to get good shots from within 15 feet of the basket.

“Coach keeps telling us teams will keep zoning us,” said Buck. “It’s something we’ve been working on in practice. We were getting good looks and the ball was falling our way.”

UND led throughout, opening a 10-2 lead 4½ minutes into the game. By halftime, UND led 30-13. In the second, UND poured it on.

“One thing we’ve struggled with is putting two good halves together,” said Buck. “We had to keep building on our lead. We didn’t let up.”

The pedal-to-the-metal mentality was in full effect when 6-foot-5 Emily Evers came up with a steal on the perimeter and went the distance for a layup, giving UND a 59-33 advantage against the 3-7, 5-14 Vikings, who were led by Allie Brock’s 18 points.

“I’m a little disappointed ‘E’ didn’t dunk it,” said Brewster. “We’ll work on that for next year. That’s the second time she’d done that. She had one of those plays last year, too.

“All of our players have the ability to run the floor.”

UND’s size and strength have been the program’s trademarks this season. But UND scored considerably in transition during its last two games.

“We had high energy on the bench and on the floor,” said Loyd.

UND has two more games at home next week, Thursday against Weber State and Saturday against Idaho State.

“We can’t stop now,” said Loyd. “Teams will be coming at us even harder.”

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