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Looking back, Mallory Youngblut wouldn't change much about UND's schedule -- even though it's been demanding. "We've learned a lot, not only about ourselves, but as a team, having to fight through adversity," Youngblut said. Looking ahead, however, Youngblut welcomes UND's entrance into Great West Conference play, which begins tonight with a game at Utah Valley. The challenging portion of UND's schedule is over. Now, the Sioux focus on the Great West -- a league that has no team with a winning record.
UND opens its Great West Conference schedule tonight at Utah Valley.
UND took a strange route to a much-needed win Friday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. The path was unlike any Sioux women's basketball coach Gene Roebuck has seen in his two-plus decades at UND. The Sioux went nine minutes without scoring, gave up a 24-0 run to their opponent and blew a 20-point lead in the process -- yet won going away. In a matchup of teams making the transition to Division I women's basketball, UND downed Seattle 66-50 before an announced crowd of 1,676.
UND began its season with 18 healthy players, including a couple of freshmen planning on redshirting. The Sioux are now down to nine players as they prepare to host Seattle University tonight.
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- There was at least one positive for the UND players as they slowly walked out of Reed Arena on Tuesday night. They won't have to face teams like Texas A&M the rest of the season. That's probably the best news the Sioux have had this season -- their second as a program making the difficult transition to Division I men's basketball. Texas A&M's size, athleticism and defensive pressure on the perimeter overwhelmed UND 82-41, a loss that dropped the Sioux to 2-14.
UND's Princeton-based offense -- a deliberate style of play that produces high-percentage shots -- frustrated Texas A&M a year ago. The Aggies of the Big 12 Conference beat the Sioux 76-62 in College Station, Texas, but it was one of the first games in UND's transition to Division I men's basketball in which the Sioux took a major step forward. "That was a big game for us," UND coach Brian Jones said. "We understood that by staying with the game plan, anything is possible." UND is at Texas A&M again tonight, a game that all but concludes the nonconference season for the Sioux.
Most days start the same for Mark Kauk. By 7 a.m., he's listening to one of the local radio stations. Usually, he calls to check in for the day. The Big Dogz, Tim and Swyg, and Mac Talk usually hear from Mark, who calls to wish one of the Greater Grand Forks teams good luck or just to chat about sports in general. By mid-afternoon, he's on the move -- headed to a Sioux practice or one of the high schools, where he'll sit through sophomore, junior-varsity and varsity games. The sport doesn't matter. Football, basketball, volleyball and baseball are all the same to Mark.
The only thing that mattered to UND was the scoreboard. UND hadn't won a men's basketball game in more than a month. So, when Division III St. Olaf rolled into the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Tuesday night, the Sioux wanted a win -- nothing more. Style points weren't a factor. The Sioux used that formula, beating St. Olaf 69-58 before 1,561 fans. UND improved to 2-12, while St. Olaf -- a team that hadn't played since Dec. 9 -- dropped to 4-4. "We wanted to win pretty bad," said UND's Derek Benter, who finished with a career-high 14 points. "It was getting pretty frustrating.
It's been 15 years since Iowa State men's basketball coach Greg McDermott served as an assistant at UND. But his memories of Sioux basketball haven't faded. "When I picked up the UND scouting report, I saw the Sioux logo on it and it brought back memories, ones that are positive memories," McDermott said. UND plays at Iowa State tonight -- a game that pairs a transitioning Division I program against a Big 12 team that has played well so far this season.
Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson came home Saturday to Grand Forks, where family, friends and former teammates were on hand to watch the former Sioux player and assistant coach guide one of the country's top mid-major college basketball programs. Jacobson's players weren't about to let their coach down. "We wanted to make sure that we played the best we could," Northern Iowa freshman Marc Sonnen said.