For UND women's basketball, the WBI gives the Hawks a taste of the postseason and a chance to develop depth

Hawks will play Cal Baptist on Friday in the first round of the tournament in Lexington, Ky.

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Fighting Hawks forward Nakiyah Hurst dives to recover a loose ball ahead of Kansas City's Rain Green, top tight, in the second quarter of a Summit League women's basketball matchup at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, February 18, 2023.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

LEXINGTON, Ky. – As a college women’s basketball coach, UND’s Mallory Bernhard isn’t a fan of Spring Break.

“Spring Break is not a thing for good basketball teams,” said Bernhard. “I never want to celebrate that.”

And UND is not celebrating the break as the Hawks will participate in this weekend’s Women’s Basketball Invitational, an eight-team, three-day postseason tournament in Lexington.

It’s an invitational tournament for teams not selected to the NCAA or the WNIT. UND will pay an entry fee of $17,000 to participate plus expenses. But the Hawks needed an impressive resume to be considered and UND did not reach out to the WBI to participate.The WBI began in 2010 and has crowned prior champions such as Appalachian State, UAB, Minnesota, Rice and Yale.

UND will take an 18-11 record into Friday’s opener against Cal Baptist, a 19-13 team from the Western Athletic Conference.


Postseason play – preferably the NCAA Tournament – is UND’s main goal. But any postseason play is welcomed.

“That’s the direction we want this program to go,” said Bernhard, who received a contract extension through the 2025-26 season earlier this week. “We want it to be a program standard that we’re playing in the postseason. And we want players that have that in mind.”

The postseason tournament resulted in roughly an extra two weeks of practice. And it also will give UND a chance to perhaps extend its rotation as three games in three days will tax the roster.

“When you have an opportunity like this, where you’re playing three games in three days, you have to be a little bit loose with the playing time and you have to go a little deeper with your lineup because there will be quick turnarounds.”

UND and the Lancers have one common opponent – Grand Canyon University. UND lost 73-60 to Grand Canyon earlier this season while Cal Baptist split with the Lopes as both are members of the WAC.

“They’re an incredibly athletic team,” said Bernhard. “They’re an up-tempo team and well over a quarter of their offense comes from transition. They’re No. 3 in the nation in three-pointers attempted. And they have some incredibly talented guards.

“They’re usually scoring in the mid-70s so we’ve got to do everything we can to keep them below that number while getting our offense going. And they’re going to get in our face a little bit.”

UND’s leading scorer, Kacie Borowicz, is the team’s point guard and Bernhard knows the Lancers will place extra pressure on the senior guard. Borowicz averages 20.7 points per game and owns the 14th highest points-per-game average in Division I this season. And she’s shooting 42.1 percent from the field.


In addition to accounting for 27.8 percent of UND’s offense, she also led the team and the Summit League in assists per game at 4.79.

UND was seeded third in the Summit League tournament but was upset by No. 6 Omaha in the quarterfinals. Bernhard said there was little doubt her team wanted the season to continue.

“You know, you can have a team that wants to start thinking about Spring Break and doing other things but that’s not the team we have,” said the UND coach. “We have a team that was sitting there (after the Omaha loss) saying they’re hungry to play more basketball.

“Fortunately, we guaranteed ourselves three more games but just having that mindset and having the approach they want to keep playing says a lot about who we are and the culture that is being built in this program.”

WBI Quarterfinals

Friday’s first round

In Lexington, Ky. 

Eastern Tennessee State vs. Florida International, 11 a.m.


New Mexico State vs. Illinois-Chicago, 1:30 p.m.

North Dakota vs. Cal Baptist, 4 p.m.

Georgia Southern vs. Northern Illinois, 6:30 p.m.

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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