Photo By Richard Carlson/Inertia
11 years ago today, the Bison women’s basketball program defeated Western Illinois in the Summit League Tournament quarterfinals. Since that day over a decade ago, North Dakota State had not won a game in Sioux Falls.
The Bison women, a six seed in this year’s tournament, bested the Denver Pioneers 72-68 this afternoon in Sioux Falls. Not only was it the first postseason win in 11 years, but it was also the first win inside the Denny Sanford Premier Center for the program.
“I know it had been a long time. I know what my expectations are and I know this is round one of a conference tournament game. I expect to win those games regardless of what the history has been here before,” said head coach Jory Collins postgame. “I want our players to start feeling like that is the expectation. For me, it’s round one, take care of business and get ready for round two and try to take care of business there.”
It couldn’t have started much better for the Bison women. With Denver shooting a lowly 23 percent in the first frame, NDSU countered with offensive efficiency. The Bison were balanced in their offensive execution, leading to a 24-13 lead through 10 minutes. An impressive 50 percent shooting mark was key, but one cannot understate how well NDSU performed on the glass. Through one quarter, the Bison women held an eight-rebound advantage over the Pioneers.
North Dakota State continued to command the glass in the second quarter. While they cooled off slightly from the field and were riddled with foul trouble, the Bison continued to stay one step ahead of Denver. Much of this was thanks to the tremendous defensive job NDSU did on Denver star Madison Nelson. The senior scored 13 points in the first half but had to take 15 shots to get there. Jory Collins said earlier in the week that NDSU would live with that ratio.
Never the less, the Pioneers pieced together a run late in the half to bring the score to 34-30 Bison at the half. The Pioneers shot just 26 percent from the field in the first half and one of 12 from deep. NDSU was led by Ryan Cobbins, Michelle Gaislerova and Sofija Zivaljevic, who each scored seven points.
The third quarter saw the game slow down a bit in terms of offensive production. NDSU was only able to muster four points in the first five minutes of the half. They also continued to have foul trouble, specifically with their posts. Emily Dietz picked up her third foul early in the quarter and Danneka Voegeli got her fourth not long after. This forced NDSU into a quasi-zone defensive set which seemed to stifle the Pioneers on offense.
“It’s what we call 32. It’s a triangle-two basically. We can only do that when they have certain lineups out there. If they have too many shooters, we can’t do it,” Collins said of the defensive set. “I’ve never run it before this year. We were grasping at straws at times this year, trying to find things that worked for us on the defensive end. That was something the players got comfortable with. When they’re comfortable with something, we’re better.”
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bison and Pioneers were tied at 47.
Both teams showed offensive prowess in a highly competitive final frame. With the Bison taking a five-point lead late in the game, Denver would not go away. The Pioneers knotted the game at 66 with 46 seconds remaining. Freshman Ryan Cobbins would take matters into her own hands from there, driving to the basket and euro stepping for a lay-up to put the Bison up two.
“I think we do a really good job of feeding off each other. It’s not just about points either, we want to find our contribution every game,” Ryan Cobbins said after finishing with a team-high 18 points. “Tonight, the ball went in the hole and everyone else was doing their job. We have people who work hard away from the ball too and that needs to be recognized.”
North Dakota State clinched the win at the free-throw line. Senior Rylee Nudell made her 11th and 12th free throws of the night with five seconds left and Nicole Scales sealed it with two more. The Bison solidified their first Summit League Tournament win in 11 years, winning 72-68.
“This was our first time winning here and it’s really exciting especially being the six seed and beating the three seed,” the senior Nudell said. “We’re just going to try and keep it going.”
“This is historic for us,” Cobbins added.
The Bison will take on South Dakota State at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Summit League Semifinals.
Today’s Top Performers
Ryan Cobbins: 18 points
Rylee Nudell: 12 points (all free throws)/12 rebounds
Michelle Gaislerova: 12 points