UND MEN'S AND WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: A good start for Sioux
Kierah Kimbrough didn't want to think about UND's heartbreaking loss against St. Cloud State in last season's North Central Region final. But she couldn't help it. Neither could her teammates. At least that appeared to be UND's mindset for the fi...
Kierah Kimbrough didn't want to think about UND's heartbreaking loss against St. Cloud State in last season's North Central Region final.
But she couldn't help it. Neither could her teammates. At least that appeared to be UND's mindset for the first 10 minutes as St. Cloud looked to be headed for another stunning road win against the Sioux.
After the nerves of the first 10 minutes had settled, UND's focus for the remaining 30 minutes was on the future - and another North Central Conference women's basketball title.
A near-perfect second half carried the Sioux to an 86-66 win against St. Cloud on Thursday night before 2,101 Betty Engelstad Sioux Center fans. The win wasn't easy, however, as UND came back from a 13-point first-half deficit.
"We knew this was a big game," said Kimbrough, whose monster 17-point, 17-rebound performance improved the Sioux to 1-0 in the league and 18-1 overall. "Early on, we probably had some nerves from last season's game. It took us a little while to get into it. We just had to remember it was another game."
Once the Sioux did get into it, St. Cloud didn't have many answers.
"They played flawlessly in the second half," St. Cloud coach Lori Ulferts said. "They commanded us in the second half. We didn't command them."
UND shot 68 percent in the second half and connected on 7 of 8 three-point attempts.
Still, St. Cloud - behind another strong game from Erika Quigley - managed to pull within six - 68-62 - after the Sioux had opened a 55-41 advantage eight minutes earlier.
However, freshman Jossy Bergan put UND back on course with back-to-back 3-pointers for a 74-62 lead. The point guard had her own case of nerves, but it had nothing to do with last year's St. Cloud win on the Sioux floor - the one that sent the Huskies to the Elite Eight.
"I've never played in front of a crowd like this," Bergan said. "And I was down on myself because I threw the ball away just before those 3-pointers."
Once Bergan hit the 3-pointers, St. Cloud was out of time.
"Jossy is going 100 mph every time she hits the court," UND coach Gene Roebuck said. "She wants that shot. She won't back down. And those were two huge shots."
St. Cloud lost by 20 points, but the fact the Huskies went toe-to-toe with the No. 2 Sioux until the final few minutes left Ulferts hopeful about her team's chances in the NCC.
UND's balance won out against St. Cloud's dominating performance by Quigley, who finished with 24 points.
Besides Kimbrough, Danye Guinn (16 points), Carissa Jahner (16), Karla Beck (11) and Ashley Langen (10) all reached double figures for Sioux, who shot 53.4 percent and outrebounded the Huskies 36-25.
Despite the impressive statistics, things didn't look good early.
"We came out of the grave," Roebuck said. "Let's face it, we weren't playing well early. We dug ourselves a 6-foot hole. But that's the thing about this team. They don't give up. They keep going and keep going. Eventually, we found our groove. I was proud of the way we came back."
The play of Quigley and Kayla Rengel - in addition to UND's early turnover problems and poor shooting - led St. Cloud to a 20-7 lead in the first nine minutes.
But the Sioux managed to climb back into contention behind key baskets from Guinn and Kimbrough. The Sioux also played better defense on Quigley in the final 10 minutes of the first half, limiting the center to five points.
In the final 3:47 of the first half, the Sioux outscored St. Cloud 10-2.
Val Sannes provided quality minutes in the first half after Langen sat down with her second foul with 6:37 remaining.
Quigley matched her average with 24 points. Jackie Carlson added 14, while Rengel finished with 11. But only three other St. Cloud players scored.
"Quigley had a great game," Roebuck said. "You're not going to stop her. But we did a decent job on the other players and that was the key."