WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND, with a two-game Big Sky lead, heads for games in Montana
If the UND women’s basketball team is going to hold off the rest of the Big Sky Conference pack and stay at No. 1, the Green and White are going to have to get it done on the road.
UND plays five of its last seven games on the road as it clings to a lead over Montana and Southern Utah in the conference standings. UND has an 11-2 league mark, while Montana and SUU are at 8-4.
And when it comes to getting it done on the road, there’s no trip tougher than through the Big Sky’s Montana schools.
That makes this weekend’s games the most critical of the year for UND, which plays at Montana State on Thursday night and at Montana on Saturday afternoon.
UND has yet to win at either venue in the Division I era.
“We’re trying to get our first win out there,” UND coach Travis Brewster said, “and they’re both playing some pretty good basketball right at the moment. We’re going against two established programs. They’re coached very well, and it’s an intense environment to play in.”
Brewster said when the schedules came out for this season, he wasn’t concerned about finishing the conference season with a road-heavy slate.
“We all can’t play at home,” Brewster said. “It’ll really test our team to see where we’re at mentally.”
The Griz, who are 10-1 at home, won five straight games before falling to Eastern Washington on the back end of their most recent road swing.
UND beat Montana by five at the Betty earlier this year. Montana State followed with a win over UND at the Betty — the team’s only home loss of the season.
“It’s never easy against anyone in our conference,” UND junior center Emily Evers said.
The Montana schools present the toughest road atmospheres due in part to their support. Montana leads the Big Sky with an average of 2,870 fans at home, followed by North Dakota at 1,565 and Montana State at 1,233. No other Big Sky school attracts more than 1,000 fans per game.
“That (Montana) road swing is tough for anyone,” Brewster said. “We understand the travel part and being prepared. We haven’t fared well out there, so hopefully we can get our fortunes turned around.”