North Dakota Rallies, Knocks Off Lady Griz 62-57


North Dakota remained unbeaten in Big Sky Conference play with a 62-57 victory over Montana Thursday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, N.D. UND rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to win its fifth straight game.

The Lady Griz (9-5, 3-2 BSC) scored 18 points in the first seven minutes of the second half to build a 45-36 lead, but that was when Montana’s offense came to a halt.

North Dakota held the Lady Griz, who entered the game shooting 52.1 percent and averaging more than 85 points per game during league, without a field goal for more than 10 minutes and took control of the game with an 18-1 run.

Montana’s drought and North Dakota’s 28-11 rebounding advantage in the second half allowed UND to build a nine-point lead in the final minutes. The Lady Griz would twice cut their deficit to three in the last minute, but both times North Dakota hit a pair of free throws at the other end to preserve its lead.

The victory was the fourth time in six league wins that North Dakota (11-4, 6-0 BSC) has had to rally from a second-half deficit.

North Dakota outscored Montana by 16 from the line and had a 49-31 advantage on the boards, the very method by which UND has been winning this season.

“We found out how they’re winning,” UM coach Robin Selvig said. “They are a big, strong, physical team, and they get after you on defense. They are good at what they’re doing.

“We just couldn’t get a rebound to save ourselves in the second half. They were big and strong going to the ball, and we weren’t big and strong. They got second shot after second shot.”

North Dakota’s game plan — attack the rim on offense and board like crazy — was no secret going into the game, and Montana was up for the challenge for the game’s first 27 minutes.

Despite a seven-minute stretch without a point midway through the first half, Montana took a 27-26 lead to the locker room. North Dakota got to the line 14 times in the first half to none for the Lady Griz, but Montana hit five first-half 3-pointers and held UND to 33.3 percent shooting.

Montana used a pair of 3-pointers from Maggie Rickman and one each from Kellie Cole and McCalle Feller early in the second half to build its nine-point lead.

Hot shooting from 3-point range can be fleeting, but aggressiveness is a characteristic a team can always count on, and it helped North Dakota come back, by locking down on Montana on the defensive end and being relentless to the basket on the offensive end.

After going up 45-36, Montana missed its next 12 shots, and by the 7:50 mark North Dakota had a lead it would not give back.

UND built its advantage to 54-46 and still led by seven with a minute left before some sketchy ball-handling allowed Montana to cling to life.

A UND turnover and a 3-pointer by Jordan Sullivan made it 58-55 with 32 seconds left, and another turnover followed by a pair of Sullivan free throws made it 60-57 with 12 seconds to play. But each time, North Dakota was perfect at the line to push the margin back to five.

“They’ve been winning close games, and they just won another close one by getting to the line and out-rebounding someone. Give them credit. They’re winning that way,” said Selvig, whose team shot 32 percent in both halves.

“We wasted some of our good shooting last weekend. We could have used some of it tonight. We didn’t shoot the ball very well.”

Montana was whistled for a season-high 23 fouls, and it took a toll, particularly on the Lady Griz backcourt. Kellie Cole, who scored a team-high 13 points, fouled out at the 5:30 mark, and Torry Hill, who had nine points and seven assists, but six turnovers, fouled out in the game’s final minute.

It was only the second time fouling out for both Cole and Hill in their careers, and the game was the first time this season the Lady Griz have had more turnovers (17) than assists (12).

Montana out-rebounded its first four Big Sky opponents by an average of 10.5 per game, but North Dakota ranks 10th nationally in rebounding margin, and wouldn’t be denied, even after holding a slim 21-20 advantage at the break. UND had three players grab at least 10 rebounds.

“Our goals going into the game were rebounding and no fouls on tough shots,” Selvig added, without further comment offered or really necessary.

Sullivan scored nine points, but only four through the first 39 minutes, and grabbed a team-high seven rebounds. Rickman finished with eight points, and Feller added nine off the bench on three 3-pointers.

Carly Selvig, who was bodied most of her 18 minutes by North Dakota’s stronger post players, finished 0 for 7 and went without a blocked shot for the first time this season.

Mia Loyd, with 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Madi Buck, with 14 points and 10 boards, both had double-doubles for North Dakota.

Montana will try to gain a split of its road trip when it plays at Northern Colorado (8-7, 2-4 BSC) Saturday at 2 p.m. at Greeley, Colo. The Bears dropped a 68-55 decision at home to Montana State Thursday night.

In other Big Sky games Thursday, Southern Utah won at home over Weber State 76-64, Eastern Washington won at home over Northern Arizona 92-68, and Portland State won at home over Sacramento State 83-80.