Slow start doesn't stop UND as Hawks rally for 89-85 women's basketball win over Montana State

UND's Kacie Borowicz scores 33 points and sets single-game record for free throws made

UND's Kacie Borowicz drives between Montana State defenders Mia Hughes, left, and Leia Beattie in the second half of their game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

UND started the season with three-straight losses. The Fighting Hawks were missing three starters due to COVID protocols as well.

Against Montana State on Saturday, the Hawks trailed 13-1 after the first five minutes.

Long game ahead? Long season ahead?

No was the answer for the first question. We don’t know the answer to the second.

Kacie Borowicz, however, had some answers as she led UND to an impressive 89-85 win over Montana State before 1,323 fans at The Betty.


UND looked like a completely different team in its fourth game. After a shaky opening five minutes, UND was solid the rest of the way as the Hawks shot well (49 percent) and managed to hold off a couple of MSU surges in the second half.

But it was Borowicz who sparked the win, scoring 33 points in her first game of the season. The former Roseau standout also set a UND single-game record for made free throws -- going 20-for-20 from the line.

“This definitely is a big win for us,” said second-year UND coach Mallory Bernhard. “We’re a team that needs to get this feeling and get that first win under our belts. Last year, getting that first win really mounted on us. To knock this one out early certainly helps. And Montana State is an awesome team. They’re going to do well in the Big Sky Conference.”

Borowicz, who played in front of the Roseau girls high school basketball team, went 6-for-10 from the field and helped spark the Hawks rebound from their poor start.

“Last year, when we had a couple of losses early, we couldn’t really recover from it,” said Borowicz of UND’s 2-19 record. “So, getting this win is going to give us a lot more confidence.”

UND took the lead for good midway through the second quarter when Borowicz converted a three-point play and added two free throws 20 seconds later -- a spurt that gave the Hawks a 32-27 advantage.

In the final two minutes of the half, Borowicz hit back-to-back baskets while Deja Davis hit two shots from the perimeter, leaving the Hawks up 45-35 at the break.

But Davis drew considerable praise for her defense on Montana State standout Darian White, the Bobcats’ leading scorer and a preseason all-Big Sky Conference first-team selection who finished with 14 points.


“Coach Mal said this was going to be a big challenge for me and I stuck to the plan,” said Davis who also added 11 points -- hitting two crucial 3-pointers. “We did everything we had to do on defense.”

Borowicz finished with 33, but UND still had good scoring balance. Melissa Leet, Davis and Maggie Manson all finished with 11 points while Claire Orth ended with 10.

The only negative was UND’s rebounding. The Bobcats outboarded UND 43-34 and the Bobcats (1-4) grabbed 23 offensive rebounds leading to 14 second-chance points.

Montana State was picked second in the Big Sky preseason poll. But the Bobcats already have played road games at Gonzaga, UNLV, South Dakota State and UND.

UND’s biggest lead came when Orth scored off a steal to put the Hawks up 70-56 with nine minutes to go.

Montana State closed to within four down the stretch but UND’s free-throw shooting (35-for-39) held off the Bobcats. And the 35 UND free throws also set a program single-game record.

UND’s win couldn’t have come at a better time, considering the Hawks had started slow and found itself trying to hold on when the Bobcats surged in the final minutes.

“We kept our confidence; we kept pushing and kept doing what we knew we could do instead of just dropping our heads and letting things mount,” said Bernhard.


UND is off until Nov. 27 when the Hawks play Bucknell on the first day of a tournament at Vermont.

UND's Kacie Borowicz drives between Montana State defenders Mia Hughes, left, and Leia Beattie in the second half of their game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

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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