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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Win and advance

It's March Madness, whether a team is playing in the NCAA Tournament, the WNIT or the Women's Basketball Invitational. Regardless of tournament, March is simply about winning and advancing. And that's what UND wants to do tonight when the Fightin...

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It's March Madness, whether a team is playing in the NCAA Tournament, the WNIT or the Women's Basketball Invitational.

Regardless of tournament, March is simply about winning and advancing.

And that's what UND wants to do tonight when the Fighting Hawks host Grand Canyon University in a first-round WBI game at The Betty.

"It's going to come down to which team is more mentally tough at this time of the year," said UND coach Travis Brewster.

UND (18-13) has won 13 of its past 15 games. The Hawks' run at a Big Sky Conference title, however, ended with a semifinal loss against Idaho State last week in the league's postseason tournament in Reno, Nev.

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Grand Canyon (16-14) hasn't played since March 5, the last day of the Western Athletic Conference regular season.

As a transitional Division I program, Grand Canyon is not yet eligible for NCAA postseason play. And that is the same path UND had to follow when the Hawks left the Division II ranks in 2008.

For Grand Canyon, the WBI was the only avenue for postseason play.

UND, meanwhile, targeted the NCAA Tournament.

"The goal was to make the NCAA Tournament, no ifs, ands or buts about it," said Brewster, who led the Hawks to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. "But at the same time, there are a lot of teams not playing at this time of the year.

"(The WBI) gives our players another opportunity to go out the right way. You want to give your players the opportunity to step forward and show what they've done all year long. It's a great thing for the program."

Grand Canyon, said Brewster, reminds him of Big Sky member Weber State.

"They're very similar to Weber," said Brewster. "They try to create havoc; they do a good job of forcing turnovers; they attack the hoop well; they cover up the hoop; and they find shooters who can knock down shots.

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"We'll have to take care of the basketball. That's the big thing. And they've been off 10 days so they're going to come in and probably try and blow the doors off the joint right away. We have to withstand that. We have to take care of business right away."

Grand Canyon is led by Jessica Gajewski, who averages 12.2 points per game. She is one of four Antelopes who average double figures. The others are Cheyenne Hedrington (11.4), Dana Jones (10.8) and Courtney Hayes (10.6).

Makailah Dyer leads UND, averaging 12.3 ppg, while Mia Loyd is at 11.8 ppg.

Both teams average slightly more than 60 points per game, with UND scoring 63.9 ppg while Grand Canyon, which has won four of their past five games, averages 61.3.

UND was one of four Big Sky teams to reach postseason play. Idaho won the Big Sky and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Vandals, a No. 16 seed, will play Baylor in the first round.

Montana State, the league's regular-season champion, is in the WNIT and will play Utah. Weber State will play New Mexico in a first-round WBI game. The winner of that game will play the UND-Grand Canyon winner either Friday or Saturday.

Nine UND opponents advanced to postseason play this season.

Related Topics: UND BASKETBALL
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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