Marquette holds off short-handed UND in women's basketball season opener

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Marquette's Camryn Taylor (15) and UND co-captain Julia Fleecs (24) jump for the ball during tipoff Sunday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Fans were not allowed to attend Sunday's home season-opener due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

UND senior Julia Fleecs, one of just eight available players for the women's basketball team as the program navigates a coronavirus issue, found Sunday's season opener against Marquette easier to maintain stamina because her and her teammates wear masks at practice.

Her coach, Mallory Bernhard, coaching her first career college game as head coach, found late-game situations unique when she had to yell across the floor to her assistant coaches, spaced out and wearing masks due to the pandemic.

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UND women's basketball interim head coach Mallory Bernhard (right) and assistant coach Emily Evers (left) watch the action from the bench in the first quarter of the 2020-2021 season-opener game against Marquette Sunday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Bernhard is the first UND graduate to lead the women's basketball program as head coach in its recorded history since 1974. Bernhard (née Youngblut) and Evers also played basketball together for the UND Fighting Sioux during the 2010-2011 season. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

And all this happened in front of no fans. Media and Betty Engelstad Sioux Center game staff were the only spectators.


It all added up to one of the strangest college basketball atmospheres Grand Forks has ever seen.

Marquette, picked to finish third in the Big East and winners of 24 games a year ago, held off a pesky effort from short-handed UND 90-82 to open the season for the Golden Eagles.

"We had to be adaptable, and I was incredibly proud of the way the team responded and how resilient they were of everything we have gone trough," said Bernhard, who became the first female head coach at UND since Martha Hutchinson (1985-87). "I thought we really stuck to a gameplan today. We were depending on different people. We showed some big-time resiliency."

The Fighting Hawks started the game strong, opening up a 7-2 lead and leading as late as 13-11 (3:19 left in the first quarter) before Marquette stormed back to take a 24-15 lead after the end of the first quarter.

But the Big East runner-ups from a year ago couldn't put the Fighting Hawks away, despite leading by 19 (62-43) with 6:36 left in the third quarter.

UND pulled to within nine points with two minutes left in the fourth quarter but couldn't fully threaten for the lead down the stretch.

Marquette's Jordan King scored a career-high 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting, while teammates Camryn Taylor and Selena Lott each added 17 points.

UND was paced by Fleecs, who finished with 23 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field and a 3-for-4 showing from the 3-point line.


Maggie Manson, a sophomore from West Fargo, came off the bench to score a career-high 17 points on 5-for-10 shooting from the 3-point line.

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Fighting Hawks guard Maggie Manson drives the ball against Marquette's Taylor Valladay (5) in the first quarter of Sunday's season-opener at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

Jaclyn Jarnot, a junior from Brooklyn Park, Minn., added 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Mikayla Reinke, a senior from Kindred, added a career-high 13 points, six rebounds and six assists in a game-high 38 minutes.

The Fighting Hawks, however, committed 20 turnovers, which Marquette turned in to 25 points.

UND was undersized across the board, playing without 6-foot-6 senior center Melissa Leet and 6-foot-2 sophomore post Olivia Lane. Other regular contributors Claire Orth, and Kacie Borowicz also weren't available. Borowicz, a sophomore from Roseau, was on the sidelines in street clothes.

"With only eight girls, we had to have a lot step up," Fleecs said. "It was definitely different. The exciting thing about being from North Dakota is we get a good fanbase, so we had to bring a lot of energy on our own."

Marquette outrebounded the smaller Fighting Hawks 43-32.


"They definitely had a huge size advantage on us," Bernhard said. "We knew coming in that'd be something we'd have a tough time with. They're well-rounded, and they have depth. They're a really good, well-coached team."

Marquette played 11 players and 10 figured in the scoring.

"Any win to get this season off right is tremendous," said Marquette coach Megan Duffy, who was the Big East Coach of the Year last year. "I really appreciate everyone here at North Dakota for how they treated us in this building. North Dakota gave us everything we can handle, right up to the buzzer.

"I was happy with some things with our group and there are some things we need to get back to the drawing board."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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