South Dakota State is the Summit League's premier women's basketball program. The Jackrabbits have held that distinction for nearly a decade. Their eight NCAA Tournament appearances since 2009 are proof of their dominance.
A slow start against the Jackrabbits can be costly. A slow opening quarter against SDSU is disastrous, as first-year Summit member UND discovered Friday night in the Jacks' decisive 66-48 win over the Hawks before 1,433 fans at The Betty.
UND led 2-0 but by the end of the first quarter the Hawks found themselves trailing 29-6 as SDSU did whatever it pleased in the opening 10 minutes-scoring in the paint, from the perimeter and capitalizing on 10 Hawks' turnovers.
"You can't start like that," said UND's Lexi Klabo, who was the only Hawks' player in double figures with 17.
The Jacks received 24 points from Macy Miller, 13 from Madison Guebert and 10 from Tagyn Larson as they scored 30 points in the paint and 20 more off UND's 21 overall turnovers.
The 18-point final margin wasn't reflective of how dominant SDSU was in the early going when the game was decided.
"They came out of the shoots," said UND coach Travis Brewster. "We scored the first two points and after that, it was all she wrote.
"They kept posting up our guards and we worked on that all week; get in front of them, get in front of them. They did a good job of attacking.
"We woke up after the first quarter. We won the second, tied the third and won the fourth. The problem was the first. But it's the end result that matters.
"That's been our M.O. Sometimes, we come out ready to go; sometimes it takes something like that to wake us up. But it was too late. That was too big of a number for us to overcome."
SDSU improved to 5-1 in the league and 13-6 overall while the Hawks, who shot 34 percent, dropped to 3-3 and 8-11.
SDSU, the No. 6-ranked mid-major team in the country, already has an impressive resume this season as the Jacks pushed No. 4 Baylor and No. 7 Oregon. Baylor beat SDSU 72-66 while Oregon took an 87-79 win.
"The start was the difference," said SDSU coach A.J. Johnston, now in his 19th season with the Jacks. "We played so well in the first half, other than the last three minutes of the second quarter.
"Offensively, we weren't great but this probably is one of the best offensive teams we've had. In the last three weeks, we've started to play well defensively. Tonight, we were really good on defense."
Only one player other than Klabo managed more than six points. Julia Fleecs added eight points off the bench.
UND is in the midst of a run of games against Dakota rivals, as the Hawks will take on North Dakota State on Sunday and South Dakota, which beat SDSU in triple overtime earlier this season, next Thursday.
UND hasn't lost to NDSU in the Division I era, but the Hawks will head to Fargo after back-to-back decisive losses.
"If you can't get up for that game, I don't know ..." said Klabo.