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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND holds off Montana, advances

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UND's Jill Morton drives to the basket while defended by Montana's Kayleigh Valley during Wednesday's game. Photo by Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference2 / 7
Kelsey Knox of UND heads to the basket as Montana's McCalle Feller defends. Photo by Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference3 / 7
UND coach Travis Brewster instructs his players during Wednesday's game. Photo by Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference4 / 7
UND's Mia Loyd scrambles for a loose basketball during the late stages of Wednesday's game against Montana. Photo by Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference5 / 7
Mia Loyd of UND gains control of the basketball after a late Montana turnover during Wednesday's quarterfinal game. Photo by Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference6 / 7
Mia Loyd looks to pass the ball with a couple of seconds left during UND's win over Montana on Wednesday in the Big Sky Conference tournament. Photo by Mackenzie Kasper, Big Sky Conference7 / 7

RENO, Nev. -- With just under eight minutes to play, UND held a 16-point lead on Montana -- the perennial power of the Big Sky Conference.

Based on the tradition of the Griz, few thought that lead would increase. And there was plenty of concern whether UND could even hold that advantage in the late stages of the Big Sky Conference quarterfinal game at the Reno Events Center.

But UND -- again -- somehow found another way to win. It wasn’t pretty; instead it was gritty as the Fighting Hawks -- after losing that 16-point lead -- rallied in the final minute to beat the Griz 65-62 on Wednesday. The win advances UND to Friday’s semifinal round game against Idaho State, which knocked out top-seeded Montana State earlier in the day.

“Today, you saw a very good basketball game between two good teams,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “And you saw the UND women’s basketball program take another step forward in our transition process.

“Our ladies played tremendously hard. We beat a very good basketball team, one that’s well coached.”

Montana clearly had the momentum in the closing minutes. Kayleigh Valley’s basket with 1:22 to play gave the Griz a 62-60 lead. But Leah Szabla tied the game on a drive with 58 seconds to play. Valley then was called for a charging foul in the lane with 38 seconds to play, leading to a Mia Loyd free throw with 7 seconds remaining.

The Griz committed a turnover with 3 seconds left. Kelsey Knox was fouled and hit two free throws for the final score. But the Griz had one final chance. McCalle Feller’s long 3-point attempt at the buzzer from 25 feet was off the mark.

“I thought that last one was going in,” said Montana coach Robin Selvig, who wrapped up his 38th season as the Griz coach. “You might not believe that, but I did. Obviously, that wasn’t the shot we were looking for but credit (UND), they did a nice job (defensively).”

UND beat Montana for the third time this season. Only one other time since UND joined the Big Sky in 2012 has a team defeated Montana three times in a season.

Also, UND (18-12) now has won 13 of its past 14 games. There has been no magic formula, either.

“We went through a lot of stuff together,” said Brewster of his team’s 1-4 start to the Big Sky season. “It’s about their heart and passion in playing the game.”

UND won despite finding itself in serious foul trouble for much of the game. And it won despite Loyd -- the preseason league player of the season -- scoring only one point as she was hampered by foul trouble.

Samantha Roscoe’s inside scoring early helped stake UND to a 13-4 lead. Montana, led by Kayleigh Valley’s 30 points, cut that deficit to 30-28 at halftime.

“She scored 30 on us but they’re not a one-man team,” said Szabla, who scored 13 points. “I thought we played good team defense.”

UND eventually went up 56-40 early in the fourth quarter behind Roscoe (16 points) and Dyer (16). The 20-11 Griz, however slowly rallied behind the inside scoring from Valley and the outside shooting from Feller (12).

UND was shaken in the final minutes but had enough composure to hang on.

“A lot of teams make runs on us,” said Dyer. “We get into a lot of close situations at the end of games. Trusting in each other helped us get through it.”

UND beat Montana 61-59 earlier this season in Missoula on a buzzer-beater from Loyd. And the Hawks took a 76-63 win over the Griz at The Betty, a game that was closer than the final margin.

“Another nail-biter; another typical Big Sky game,” said Selvig.

M 10 28 37 62

UND 17 30 51 65

M: Feller 5-18 1-2 12, Valley 8-23 14-17 30, Sims 3-7 1-2 7, Isaak 0-0 0-0 0, Vining 2-4 0-0 5, Anderson 0-0 0-0 0, Staudacher 0-0 0-0 0, Doran 3-7 2-2 8. Totals 21-59 18-23 62.

UND: Loyd 0-2 1-2 1, Roscoe 5-7 6-7 16, Smith 1-1 0-0 2, Szabla 3-8 7-7 13, Dyer 6-13 0-0 16, Morton 2-6 1-1 5, Knox 2-5 3-3 7, Klabo 1-3 1-2 3, Freije 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 20-56 21-24 65.

3-point goals: M 2-18 (Feller 1-10, Vining 1-3, Sims 0-2, Doran 0-2, Valley 0-1), UND 4-8 (Dyer 4-5, Knox 0-2, Szabla 0-1, Morton 0-1). Total fouls: M 23, UND 23. Fouled out: Valley. Rebounds: M 33 (Valley 9), UND 35 (Roscoe 8). Assists: M 17 (Vining 5), UND 12 (Morton 3). Steals: M 6 (Isaak, Doran 2), UND 7 (seven tied with 1). Turnovers: M 9, UND 15. A—1,263.

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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