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UND finds way to win without Klabo in 68-57 victory over Omaha

UND's Julia Fleecs (24) tries to slap the ball out of Omaha forward Josie Filer's hands in the first quarter of Wednesday's home basketball game. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
Omaha's Claire Killian (left) feels the pressure as UND guard Jill Morton blocks her Wednesday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
UND guard Alaina Jarnot (12) lines up for a free throw in the second period of Wednesday's home basketball game against Omaha. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
Fighting Hawks guard Jill Morton blocks Omaha's Claire Killian (left) from passing the ball during Wednesday's basketball game at the Betty Engelstad SIoux Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

With Summit League leading scorer Lexi Klabo out of Wednesday night’s game against Nebraska Omaha due to an injury, head coach Travis Brewster told his players not to try to do too much.

“The thing I was afraid of was trying to play hero ball out there instead of playing together,” Brewster said.

Those fears were put to rest with balanced contributions throughout the lineup in a 68-57 UND win in front of 1,354 at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

The Hawks improved to 8-9 overall and 3-1 in the Summit. UND won for the fifth time in the past six games despite playing without Klabo (18.8 points per game) and one of their top reserves, Melissa Dailey (6.4 ppg). It was the first game in Klabo’s four-year career she’s missed.

Sophomore Julia Fleecs, in her first career start in place of Klabo, finished with a game-high 14 points. Point guard Alaina Jarnot scored almost 10 points more than her average with 13 points on 3-for-4 shooting from beyond the arc.

“We try to focus on our own roles still,” Fleecs said. “Nobody is trying to step up into the superstar role or anything like that.”

Another big boost came from the bench, where Melissa Leet, a 6-foot-6 sophomore center, had nine points, six rebounds, four blocks and three assists.

Leet came into the game averaging 0.5 points and shooting 10 percent from the field in an average of 4 minutes per game.

“I think we played well, especially with our seniors missing in the game,” Fleecs said. “I think we can step it up as a group more when we play teams higher in the conference.”

UND led nearly the entire way, grabbing leads of 14-11 after the first quarter and 31-22 at halftime.

The Hawks started to build breathing room late in the third, sparked by the play of Leet.

With 1:30 left in the third quarter, Leet hit a 3-pointer in stride in transition from the top of the key to give the Hawks a 54-39 lead.

“We’re really proud of Leet,” Jarnot said. “She rebounded and blocked some shots. She had an amazing performance.”

Omaha, led by Elena Pilakouta (13 points) and Claire Killian (10 points), pulled within nine early in the fourth quarter but the mini rally was put to rest with 3-pointers by Jarnot and Jill Morton to extend the lead back out to 15.

UND, which entered the game ranked No. 335 in the country in 3-point shooting percentage at 24.8 percent, connected on 6 of 13 attempts from the 3-point line.

“I thought we took some good shots from out there,” Brewster said. “We had some inside-out action that opened up some of that. We just have to keep moving the basketball and trust each other.”

Brewster said the future availability of Klabo and Dailey is unknown.

“I haven’t spoken to the trainer or anything like that,” Brewster said. “The big thing for me with young people is to look out for their health. It’s better to have her healthy later on than to have her back partially. We’ll have to see what happens.”

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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