UND’s 87-57 win over Sacramento State on Saturday can’t be categorized as routine. It was far from it.
But UND will take any type of win this late in the season as North Dakota kept itself in good position to win the Big Sky Conference regular-season title. The Green and White improved to 13-4 in the league and 18-8 overall.
Also, it was UND’s second-straight 30-point league win — the other coming Thursday against Northern Arizona.
“That tells you we’re playing pretty good basketball together,” said UND coach Travis Brewster.
UND’s win, coming before 1,572 fans at The Betty, was unique because of the following:
n North Dakota did not attempt a 3-point shot. It’s not certain, but UND may have never played a game without attempting at least one 3-pointer.
n UND went 20-for-24 from the field in the second half. And if there was a shot beyond 15 feet, it wasn’t by much. “I think we took one from 15½ feet,” said Brewster.
n Substitutions were early and often. Sacramento State often subbed five players at a time. “I thought we were playing half hockey, half basketball the way the subbing was going,” said UND senior Allyssa Wall.
In the end, however, UND executed its game plan to near perfection against a team that shook things up in the league earlier this season.
Sacramento State plays an up-tempo style of basketball, featuring a pressure defense while emphasizing 3-point shooting.
UND lost 110-104 in overtime earlier this season in Sacramento. During the rematch, UND decided not to get into a transition game with the Hornets — instead breaking Sacramento's pressure defense and holding the ball deep into the shot clock for an easy inside shot.
“With 12 seconds left (on the clock), it was time to figure out a way to score,” said Brewster. “And we have good enough basketball players who can make plays.”
UND placed five players in double figures, led by Madi Buck’s 20 points. Mia Loyd added 18, while guard Leah Szabla and Wall finished with 15 and 11, respectively.
Early on, UND’s patience on offense — which bordered on a delay game — frustrated UND fans.
“We didn’t need 3-pointers; we just needed easy bunnies,” said Buck. “Early on, the crowd was like, ‘Shoot, shoot.’ But they figured it out. There was a method to our madness.”
UND lead the whole game, taking a 38-23 lead into halftime.
Buck, Wall and Loyd powered UND’s offense early in the second half. In the first 3½ minutes, UND went on a 12-6 run and led 50-29 with 16:24 to go.
Sacramento State’s 3-point game wasn’t on, either. The Hornets, led by Fantasia Hilliard’s 13 points, finished 9-for-45 from beyond the arc and shot 29 percent overall. The Hornets have attempted 940 three-pointers this season.
Sacramento State’s style has frustrated teams this season. But the league has adjusted, slowing down the game’s pace and not allowing the Hornets to launch 3-pointer after 3-pointer. The Hornets have now lost four of their last five.
The Hornets’ style can be frustrating for an opponent.
“We’re used to it now,” said Wall. “The Big Sky is a pretty physical conference and they’re a small, quick, shooting team. They’ll do whatever they can to get physical with us. At first, you get a little annoyed but as you keep going you get used to it.”
UND, which honored seniors Buck, Wall and Katie Houdek on their final regular-season game, now has three straight on the road — starting Thursday at Portland State.
North Dakota didn’t get any help Saturday as Montana and Southern Utah both improved to 11-5 with road wins.
That, however, didn’t put a damper on UND’s day.
“That was really special, to go out and execute a game plan like that on Senior Night,” said Wall. “It was a total team win.”