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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND faces difficult road trip

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The Big Sky Conference encompasses three time zones -- meaning considerable and sometimes difficult travel -- and a 20-game league schedule, starting in December and ending in March.

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So, after UND dropped its first league game last week against Montana State, there was no sense of panic for North Dakota -- only the realization that another game awaits in five days, this time on the West Coast.

"We'll dust this one off and come back," said UND freshman Makailah Dyer, a freshman. "Our shots didn't fall and we weren't clicking."

UND embarked on its longest road trip of the Big Sky season Wednesday, as North Dakota will play at Sacramento State tonight and at Northern Arizona on Saturday.

And the trip didn't get off to a smooth start as UND was scheduled to fly out of Grand Forks at 5 a.m. Wednesday but was still at the Grand Forks International Airport by mid-afternoon as Blizzard Dillon snarled travel plans throughout the region.

When UND (6-1 in the Big Sky, 11-5 overall) does reach Sacramento, coach Travis Brewster's team will play a team with a unique style. Sacramento leads the league in scoring (90.3 ppg) and has attempted 598 three-pointers (40 per game).

The Hornets' helter-skelter tempo also has forced opponents into 24.3 turnovers per game. They also lead the league with 15.3 steals per league.

"It'll be a clash of two different styles," Brewster said. "We're a more methodical, pound the ball into the middle type of team and they're more of an up-and-down team that likes to shoot the 3-pointer.

"They'll try and trap you a lot create a lot of turnovers. And Northern Arizona is playing well, too. They'll shoot a lot of shots from the perimeter."

UND relies on a big, physical style of play with timely shooting from the perimeter.

North Dakota ranks fourth in the NCAA in blocks (6.3 per game) and has a plus-10.6 advantage in rebounding per game, ranking ninth in the country.

Mia Loyd, Madi Buck, Allyssa Wall and Emily Evers have created considerable havoc in the paint this season for UND. Loyd and Buck, who needs 30 points to reach 1,000 for her career, each recorded back-to-back doubles last week. Loyd also is tied for the league lead with six double-doubles while Buck is third with five.

UND already has as many wins in the Big Sky (six) as it did last season, the program's first in the league.

"We're feeling good about that," said Dyer, a Wisconsin transfer who is beginning to make major contributions.

This weekend, however, will be one of UND's most difficult in the league, considering the amount of travel and the unique style of play North Dakota will see.

"That's why you play that game, to see what style of play that will work the best for which team," said Brewster.

Nelson reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1268 or send e-mail to wnelson@gfherald.com.

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