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Minnesota Crookston senior’s hot start has Golden Eagles off to their best start in 14 years

UND's Julia Fleecs (#24) puts pressure on Minnesota Crookston center Isieoma Odor in the third quarter of an exhibition basketball game at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center earlier this year. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Minnesota Crookston women’s basketball coach Mike Roysland has been with the Golden Eagles for 13 seasons, a span long enough that when he says he’s never seen anything like it, the sentiment means something.

“I’ve never had a player get off to that type of start,” said Roysland.

That player is UMC senior center Isieoma Odor, who’s ascending the program’s all-time scoring and rebounding lists while also lifting the Golden Eagles to a 6-1 start -- their best in 14 years.

Odor, a 6-foot Bloomington, Minn., native, has been named the NSIC North Division Player of the Week three of four weeks so far this season.

“She’s seeing the game at a much slower pace,” Roysland said. “The game has slowed down. This summer, she stayed on campus and did an internship so she spent a lot of time in the gym. You could tell her skill-set improved.”

It’s the fifth season in Crookston for Odor, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury as a true freshman. She’s making the most of her experience, posting averages of 17.4 points (good for fourth in the 16-team NSIC) and 10.3 rebounds this year (first in the NSIC).

“It’s a good start,” said Odor, who plans to graduate in the spring with a criminal justice degree. “I think we’re pretty good at staying level-headed, though. It definitely feels good to have this start for my senior year. We’re hoping to stay strong.”

Last weekend, Odor passed Micaela Noga for seventh all-time in scoring at UMC. She now has 1,122 career points.

UMC’s all-time leading scorer is Jamie Zelinsky (2007-11) with 1,724 points.

Odor is currently third all-time in rebounds with 609. She needs 89 more rebounds to beat the school record of 697 set by Katrina Nordick (2012-16).

In an exhibition game against UND to start the year, Odor had 11 points and 10 rebounds as the Golden Eagles were outscored just 34-31 in the second half against the Division I foe.

As a team, Odor’s individual success has carried UMC to new levels. On Monday, the Eagles were ranked in the Central Region Poll for the first time in recent history.

UMC, ranked 10th in the poll, is off to the school’s best start since 2004-05.

“I think our returners came back and everyone had improved their game,” Roysland said. “I think that’s No. 1. We had eight freshmen come on board, as well, and the upperclassmen have got them up to speed.”

UMC hosts Minnesota State Moorhead and Northern State this weekend at Lysaker Gymnasium -- the start of an important pre-Christmas stretch. The Eagles are hoping to make the NSIC quarterfinals at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, where UMC has advanced to three of the past four seasons.

In order to do that, Roysland and Odor know they’ll have to adjust to defenses focusing harder on the UMC star.

“I’ll get hit with a lot of different things,” Odor said. “It’ll be a learning process. I just have to stay listening to coach and adjusting game by game.”

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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