Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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UND's mission today at The Betty is simple: Forget Thursday's night's win over Weber State and concentrate on the task at hand. That sound's simple. Whether that happens remains to be seen. With its emotional 83-77 win over Big Sky Conference power Weber State on Thursday, UND pulled off one of its bigger men's basketball wins since joining the league in 2012. It's a win that could serve as a springboard for UND in its attempt to win its first league title.
Boys basketball 6 Friday's results Devils Lake 76, Fargo North 62 Northern Cass 72, Hillsboro-Central Valley 69 Mandan 74, Williston 68 Carrington 73, Barnes County North 42 Dunseith 73, Westhope-Newburg 58 Dickinson 111, Turtle Mountain 56 Park Christian 71, Climax-Fisher 46 Thief River Falls 69, Cloquet 52 Waubun 63, Mahnomen 48 Dilworth-G-F 68, Hawley 63 Nevis 76, Kelliher-Northome 40 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 68, Blackduck 59
The halfway point of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball season has yet to arrive. But UND's highly entertaining and emotional 83-77 win over Weber State on Thursday night at The Betty had the feeling of postseason play. And that's likely a good sign for the rest of the season as UND's win came against a traditional league power before 2,362 fans.
Since UND joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012, the schedule-makers haven't been necessarily kind to the Fighting Hawks. Each season, it seems, UND plays traditional Big Sky powers Montana and Weber State on back-to-back weekends. And that's happened again this season. Weber State will play UND at The Betty tonight in what could be the marquee home game of the season for the Fighting Hawks.
Leah Szabla played in UND's first nine games of the season. Then, illness hit the senior all-purpose player from Brooklyn Park, Minn. UND adjusted its lineup and rotation minus Szabla and her 12.3 points-per-game average and leadership. The result? UND has gone 6-2 without Szabla and is in second place in the Big Sky Conference heading into this week's play. The Fighting Hawks are at Weber State on Thursday night before playing at Idaho State on Saturday. But Szabla may play this week. How much, however, is yet to be determined.
Traditionally, Montana usually has been at the top of the Big Sky Conference women's basketball standings. It's a strange year for the Griz, however. Montana underwent a coaching change after last season with the retirement of legendary coach Robin Selvig. And they lost two starters early this season, one of them being preseason league player of the year Kayleigh Valley. For nearly three quarters, however, none of that seemed to matter as UND struggled to keep the struggling Griz at arm's length.
Boys hockey 6 Friday's results Ely 3, Bagley-Fosston 1 Moorhead 9, Minnetonka 5 Greenway 4, Minneapolis 2 Williston 3, BOttineau 2, OT Detroit Lakes 2, Fargo North 1 Minot 7, Jamestown 1 St. Paul Johnson 3, Fargo South-Shanley 3, OT Devils Lake 2, Fargo Davies 1 Northern Lakes 6, Kittson Central 1 First period—1. NL, Brett Reed (Max Tangen) 12:51
Somehow, some way, UND had managed to stage successful second-half rallies in Big Sky Conference women's basketball games this season and for a good portion of last season, too. Montana State witnessed another late UND surge Thursday night. But the Bobcats—unlike many other league teams—had enough to hold on, beating UND 74-71 in overtime before 1,595 fan at The Betty. UND dropped to 4-1 in the league and 9-7 overall while the Bobcats, picked to finish first in the league media poll, improved to 4-1 and 11-4.
No trophy will be awarded. And it won't go in any record book, either. But the accomplishments of the UND women's basketball team the past 17 games have been quite remarkable. After UND's road sweep last week at Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, the Fighting Hawks have won 16 of their past 17 Big Sky Conference games dating back to last season. "We buy into philosophies," said UND senior Samantha Roscoe. "And we got on a roll."
Throughout the years, the most recognizable teams in the Big Sky Conference have been Montana and Montana State. And most of the other teams in the Big Sky also recognize that the road trip to Montana and Montana State—in most sports—is the toughest in the league. UND takes its 3-1 Big Sky men's basketball record to Montana State on Thursday night and Montana on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks have won three in a row and perhaps played their best game of the season last Saturday in a 30-point thrashing of Southern Utah.