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Making the big shots

To UND coach Gene Roebuck, it doesn't matter if sophomore Sioux guard Kayla Bagaason misses an open attempt on the perimeter. His message to Bagaason after the miss is clear: Shoot the ball again. "Kayla has a shooter's mentality," Roebuck said. ...

To UND coach Gene Roebuck, it doesn't matter if sophomore Sioux guard Kayla Bagaason misses an open attempt on the perimeter.

His message to Bagaason after the miss is clear: Shoot the ball again.

"Kayla has a shooter's mentality," Roebuck said. "I want her to feel comfortable to shoot the ball anytime she's open. She doesn't take bad shots. And she's hit some big shots for us."

Few players have the continual green light from the perimeter. Bagaason, however, rarely faces red or yellow lights.

Bagaason's 44 percent shooting from the field in UND's past three games is one reason why the Sioux believe they're back on track after losing two of three games - a rarity for one of the country's best NCAA Division II programs.


UND hasn't shot the ball from the perimeter as well as it has in the past. But the Sioux have made big shots in big situations. They are shooting 35.4 percent on 3-point attempts this season, compared to 38.4 percent last season.

However, against South Dakota a week ago, UND shot 59 percent in the second half to pull away for a 69-60 win against the team with the best overall 3-point percentage in the league. At Nebraska-Omaha last week, the Sioux shot 52 percent, while Bagaason went 3-for-4 on 3-pointers against the Mavericks' zone defense.

After one of UND's two 7 a.m. practices earlier this week, Bagaason and teammate Karla Beck didn't leave the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center until finishing a 15-minute shooting drill with assistant coach Greg Ulland.

"I've been working on my shot after practice trying to get my confidence up," Bagaason said. "You get tired physically and mentally with a long season, and it's hard to stay focused. But for the things we're shooting for, it's not that hard to get up for it."

The Sioux are shooting for a win Saturday at Minnesota-Duluth, which would give UND the outright NCC regular-season title. UND (9-2 NCC, 26-3 overall) already has earned a share of the NCC's regular-season title, the program's third straight and 10th overall.

But Augustana's home win against South Dakota on Wednesday night makes UND's game at Duluth an important one. Augustana finished its league season at 9-3. If the Sioux lose at Duluth, they'll tie Augustana for the league's regular-season title.

However, Augustana would earn the tiebreaker for No. 1 seed - and home-court advantage - in the upcoming NCC postseason tournament by virtue of its season sweep of St. Cloud State. The Sioux split with St. Cloud.

The Sioux didn't shoot well from the perimeter in their loss at St. Cloud. However, their shooting has improved the last two weeks.


UND's solid shooting of late is reflected in the NCC's 3-point shooting statistics. Overall, UND is second in 3-point shooting at 35.4 percent, trailing South Dakota's 35.9 percent showing.

In NCC play, UND is shooting the same 35.4 percent. However, that percentage leads the league.

Bagaason's shooting has been solid of late, but the big boost on the perimeter for UND during its 11 league games has come from Carissa Jahner, who is shooting an NCC-best 51.4 percent on 3-point attempts.

"We started shooting the ball a lot better during the second half of the South Dakota game," Roebuck said. "We need our bench to shoot the ball well from the perimeter. When we do that, it gives you a weapon other teams don't have."

UND is 30-3 all-time against Duluth. The Sioux beat Duluth 76-60 two weeks ago in Grand Forks. In addition to the NCC's outright title, a win at Duluth also would improve UND's overall record to 27-3 - a mark that likely could give the Sioux home-court advantage in next month's North Central Region tournament.

"We control our own destiny, and that's the position we want to be in," Roebuck said. "There's no margin of error now."

Reach Nelson at 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 268 or wnelson@gfherald.com .

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