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With a boost of confidence, Hawks prepare for Vermont tournament

UND women's basketball team to play Bucknell

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UND's Maggie Manson and her Fighting Hawk teammates react to their win over Montana State Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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UND women’s basketball coach Mallory Bernhard wasn’t surprised when Kacie Borowicz went 20-for-20 from the free-throw line last week in leading the Fighting Hawks to an impressive win against Montana State.

“It’s more shocking to me in practice when she comes and tells me she missed one,” said Bernhard.

Borowicz scored 33 points last week in leading UND to its first win of the season. And it also served as a notice that the Hawks could be a much different -- and perhaps much better -- team with Borowicz back in the lineup.

The former Roseau, Minn., standout missed UND’s first three games of the season due to COVID protocols but returned with a vengeance -- sparking the team off the bench as she played virtually every position on the court.

“Kacie is a competitor,” said Bernhard. “There is not a drill in practice she’s not trying to win.”

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UND plays Bucknell on Saturday in the first round of the TD Bank Classic in Burlington, Vermont. The Hawks will play either Vermont or Brown on Sunday.

The 20-for-20 showing by Borowicz at the line last week set a school single-game record. But hidden in that performance was the fact that four other UND players scored in double figures against a team that was picked to finish second in the preseason Big Sky Conference poll.

And after last season’s 2-19 season, UND needed a boost early in the season -- and the Hawks may have found it in their win against Montana State.

“I’m going to keep referencing that last year we played in so many close games,” said Bernhard. “Our record wasn’t good but when you break it down and look at how many close games were played there was that little bit in our minds that said, ‘Can we pull it off at the end?’

“To pull this game (against Montana State) off down the stretch gives our team the thought that, ‘yeah, we can pull off these close games.’ And, in fact, we went down by 12 and fought our way back. That was great for our mentality and confidence.”

UND may see a different style of play with its trip to Vermont this weekend. The Hawks may see more patient teams unlike the more wide-open style they see in the Summit League.

UND also is expected to be at full strength this weekend for the first time this season. That means that center 6-foot-2 Olivia Lane should return, giving the Hawks an added rebounding boost. The lack of rebounding has been a concern for 1-3 UND, which is being outrebounded by an average of 43-31 through four games.

However, the absence of a couple of UND starters for the first three games has given the younger players on the roster more of a chance to get a feel for the college game.

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Maggie Manson, a junior, has been leading the way along with Claire Orth and Melissa Leet in the early going.

“It’s been an opportunity for us to help our newcomers in our program to show what UND basketball is all about,” said Manson, who is averaging 11 points per game. “And now that we’ve got Kacie and Olivia back, we’re really looking forward to the weekend.”

UND’s win over Montana State was the first official win over Bernhard, who was the program’s interim coach last season.

And the players were excited for that win.

“We were so pumped,” said Manson. “I wish you could have seen us in the locker room. We were jumping around and spaying Coach Mal with our water bottles. We were able to take a deep breath knowing we got that first win under our belts. It was a really, really good feeling.”

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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 wnelson@gfherald.com.
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