The North Dakota women's basketball team overcame a slow start Saturday afternoon to send Montana State to its fourth consecutive loss.
The Bobcats opened the contest with several stops in a row and built a large lead, but they couldn’t sustain that performance over the rest of the game. The Fighting Hawks earned their first win of the season with an 89-85 win over MSU at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.
MSU got within four points three separate times in the game’s final minute but never any closer because UND made 11 of 12 free throws in the same span.
In all, the Fighting Hawks hit 35 of 39 from the line. MSU, after struggling to draw fouls in each of its previous four games, managed to make 37 trips to the line, where the Bobcats converted 30 times.
Once UND overtook the Bobcats at the start of the second quarter, MSU head coach Tricia Binford said her players resorted to some poor habits defensively.
“The spiral effect for us is in response when it tightens up we try to do a little bit too much and that’s where the fouls start coming in,” she said. “We’ve got to find a way to get our discipline in that area.”
The Bobcats (1-4) were whistled for 29 fouls. UND (1-3) was called for 26.
Montana State opened the game on a 14-0 run over the first five and a half minutes but went into the second quarter ahead by just three, at 22-19. The teams fought to a 27-27 tie with 5:41 left in the half, but a pair of Kacie Borowicz free throws put UND ahead for good.
Borowicz, a junior guard, finished with 33 points, a performance aided by a 20-for-20 showing on foul shots.
“We didn’t have the ability to adjust to her over the course of the game to shut that down,” Binford said.
As UND built its lead to as many as 14 points in the second half, Binford said the Bobcats had trouble responding in kind.
“When our opponent scores a couple buckets, I feel like right now it’s a spiral thing for us where we just don’t respond to that first and get the next stop,” she said. “It’s almost becoming contagious in the wrong way.”
MSU’s Lexi Deden led the team with 17 points and 10 rebounds with two steals. She shot 9 of 10 from the foul line.
“I thought she was an animal on the glass today,” Binford said. “Especially to get that through the post play, that’s been an area we’ve been trying to get more from.”
Darian White followed with 14 points, seven assists and seven steals. Katelynn Limardo added 13 points and seven rebounds, and Leia Beattie contributed 11 points before fouling out. Taylor Janssen finished with eight points, and Mia Hughes had seven.
MSU will look to bounce back next week when it plays a pair of games in San Luis Obispo, California, in the two days after Thanksgiving. The Bobcats will play North Texas on Friday and Cal Poly on Saturday.
While Binford said the team took some positive steps this week, there is still a lot of room for improvement.
“The things that aren’t going great, we’re letting spiral too long,” she said. “We’ve got to grow up very, very quickly here.”