Through four games of its initial Summit League season, the UND women’s basketball team had made a little noise -- sitting with a 3-1 record.
A win Sunday against Western Illinois would have given the Hawks a big dose of momentum with league power South Dakota State set to visit The Betty on Friday.
Western Illinois, however, wiped out that momentum, taking a 92-80 win over the Hawks before 1,400 fans.
Western Illinois scored 60 second-half points and torched UND’s defense with constant drives to the basket for layups. The Leathernecks scored 52 points the paint -- mostly on layups. And that’s surprising since there are no players taller than 5-foot-11 on the Western Illinois roster.
“We can’t let them shoot layups all night and expect to win the game,” said UND’s Lexi Klabo, who led the Hawks with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
So, now it’s probably back to the fundamentals on defense as SDSU prepares for its first Summit League visit to Grand Forks. The Jackrabbits are 4-1 in the league and 12-6 overall. First place still will be on the line but the game lost a little of its impact with UND’s setback against a team that improved to 2-2 and 6-11.
“We can’t dwell on that,” added Klabo of the matchup. “It’s a long season. We have to have a good week of practice and get ready for SDSU.”
One UND focus will be on defense, especially allowing opponents to drive the lane and score. WIU guard Olivia Kaufmann scored 28 points, going 10-for-14 from the field. Guard Danni Nichols added 17 points, finishing 6-of-7.
UND mostly was in charge in the first half, leading by six early in the second quarter. The game was tied at 32 at the break. The Leathernecks dominated the opening minutes of the third quarter, scoring 15 points in the first 3:17. WIU scored 33 points in the third quarter, shooting 73 percent.
“They were getting to the rim,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “We didn’t do a good job of cutting them off. We have to do a better job on defense. And we were a little stagnant with the ball at times.”
UND trailed 70-52 after a Nichols’ 3-pointer with 8:24 to play. From there, UND amped up its defense and cut the deficit to eight with 5:30 to play, but the Hawks could get no closer.
“We need to start the third quarter with that kind of spark,” added Klabo, who tied UND’s career free throw record in the fourth quarter. Klabo tied the career mark set by Ashley Langen in 2008.
UND shot 48 percent and outrebounded WIU 36-30. Bu UND couldn’t overcome the Leathernecks’ hot start to the third quarter and their success in driving the lane. WIU ended up shooting 56 percent.
Jill Morton (12) and Claire Orth (11) also were in double figures for the Hawks.
UND will face its biggest test of its first year in the Summit when SDSU makes its trip to Grand Forks.
“Obviously, they’re very good; they play with a lot of discipline and they’re very physical,” said Brewster. “It’ll be a good challenge”