Idaho State holds off UND for Big Sky win
Most Big Sky Conference teams don't mind the fact that North Dakota is set to leave the league next season, simply because it seems like trains, planes and automobiles are needed to get to Grand Forks.
"I think it was cheaper for us to go to Hawaii this year than North Dakota," said Idaho State women's basketball coach Seton Sobolewski.
And Idaho State has struggled during its trips to UND since the Fighting Hawks joined the league in 2012. But that changed Saturday as Idaho State—in its final scheduled trip to Grand Forks—used its effective inside game and a couple of timely fourth-quarter 3-pointers to down UND 68-55 before 1,977 fans at The Betty.
It was Idaho State's first win in Grand Forks in six trips.
UND and Northern Colorado are travel partners in the Big Sky, meaning the other 10 league teams must make the lengthy and demanding Greeley-to-Grand Forks swing each season.
"It's the toughest trip by far, with the travel, the weather and the expense," said Sobolewski. "But this is the thing that's impressive: North Dakota has to make that kind of trip for every road game. Considering how much they have to travel, the success they've had in this league is pretty impressive."
UND dropped to 4-9 in the league and 11-13 overall while Idaho State improved to 7-5 and 15-8. The Hawks also had to play without starter and second-leading scorer Fallyn Freije, who was out with an ankle injury suffered during Thursday night's win over Weber State.
Both teams play similar styles. Both are big and physical. But the difference might have been two timely 3-pointers by Idaho State's Grace Kenyon and Dora Goles midway through the final quarter that answered a 9-0 UND run—a spurt that had pulled the Hawks to within 54-48 with 7:40 to go.
"That was us freelancing, just trying to get a shot," said Sobolewski.
UND led early but Idaho State led 33-30 at the break. In the third quarter, the Bengals connected on 10 of 12 from the field in building a 54-39 lead.
But the Hawks rallied behind Lexi Klabo, who scored seven of her game-high 22 points in the 9-0 run.
"We didn't come out with the energy and intensity we had in our last game," said Klabo. "And we needed to play better defense. They're definitely inside oriented and they're physical. They like to match what we do. But we needed to be more ready."
Idaho State, led by Brooke Blair's 19 points, scored 22 points in the paint and 20 off of 16 UND turnovers. And they shot 57 percent.
Outside of Klabo, no UND player scored more than seven points. The Hawks shot 36 percent.
"We didn't get into a good game flow and Lexi accounted for 40 percent of our offense," said UND coach Travis Brewster. "We didn't get into a good rhythm on the defensive side, either, which is more disappointing. And we were kind of playing slow."
UND now hits the road for three straight games, starting Thursday at Southern Utah.
"We just have to keep getting better and hopefully make some noise in Reno," said Klabo.