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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 13 2010

Women's basketball: Bison scores a win over New Mexico State

North Dakota State won its women’s basketball season opener Friday night with a sure-fire formula: don’t let the other team ever take a lead.

The Bison took a big first half advantage, saw it dwindle to a tie in the second half but forged on from there for an 88-79 win over New Mexico State. It was a solid non-conference win for a Summit League team over a Western Athletic Conference foe in front of 1,274 at the Bison Sports Arena.

Center Janae Burich was too much for the Aggies underneath with a career-high 27 points, guard Katie Birkel was too much out front with 25 points, forward Abby Plucker was too much at the free throw line (13 of 17) and forward Danielle DeGagne was the offensive threat she wasn’t last year with 13 points.

“We knew it was going to be a good test,” said NMSU head coach Darin Spence.

The Bison made it a weed-eating exam taking a 16-point lead in the first half. They also showed some ball control with just nine turnovers against a team that thrives on defensive pressure.

“We all had a lot of energy,” DeGagne said.

There were a few outages in the second half, and the Aggies pulled even at 72-72 and had the Bison on the run with their full court press. But a backcourt reach foul led to two Birkel free throws and a sense of some rest for NDSU.

“We just buckled down and played tough defense,” DeGagne said.

Her jumper and a short field goal by Birkel restored the advantage to 78-72 with 3:37 remaining.

“It’s hard to come back when you get down by that many,” Spence said. “We got that tie and you just wear out.”

Another defensive stop led to a Burich inside hoop on the other end and it was an eight-point lead at 2:45. NDSU made it tough on itself in that stretch, too, missing five of six free throws at one point.

“We just settled back in and got the ball in the right kids’ hands,” said NDSU head coach Carolyn DeHoff.

It was all NDSU in the early going, forging a 29-13 lead with 9:20 left in the first half. It was still 37-22 at the 5:19 mark before the Aggies got serious on defense.

They closed the half on a 16-4 run to cut NDSU’s lead to 41-38 at halftime.

What the Bison discovered in that stretch is it may be a short bench, at least in the beginning stages of this season. Freshman forward Ali Browning was suspended for two games after the Bison discovered she played in too many all-star games, a violation of NCAA rules.

The Bison get another WAC team Monday night with Utah State coming to the BSA.

“It was a good win for us,” DeGagne said. “All games are important and we need to play as hard as we can.”

NMSU (0-1): McGhee 5-10 0-1 10, Wampler 3-6 4-5 10, Lowe 4-16 4-6 13, Spence 5-12 1-3 12, Corbett 4-6 0-0 12, Magazzeni 0-0 0-0 0, Sanchez 1-4 0-0 2, Soto 3-4 0-0 7, Chenier 2-5 1-3 5, Rutledge 0-3 1-2 1, Fletcher 1-1 0-0 2, Rosen 2-3 1-1 5. Totals: 32-79 12-21 79.

NDSU (1-0): Plucker 2-9 13-17 17, Trecker 0-5 0-0 0, Burich 8-13 11-14 27, DeGagne 6-8 0-0 13, Birkel 8-11 7-12 25, Peltier 0-1 0-0 0, Shea 0-4 0-0 0, Linz 2-5 0-0 6, Stephenson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 26-59 31-43 88.

Halftime: NDSU 41, NMS 38. Total fouls: NMS 32, NDSU 19. Fouled out: Soto, DeGagne. Technical foul: NMS bench. Rebounds: NMS 45 (Wampler 12); NDSU 42 (Plucker, Birkel 7). 3-point goals; NMS 7-17 (Lowe 1-7, Spence 1-3, Corbett 4-4, Sanchez 0-2, Soto 1-1); NDSU 5-19 (Plucker 0-3, Trecker 0-3, DeGagne 1-2, Birkel 2-4, Peltier 0-1, Linz 2-5, Stephenson 0-1). Assists: NMS 17 (Lowe 4); NDSU 16 (Plucker 6). Turnovers: NMS 13 (Spence 5); NDSU 9 (Birkel 3). A-1,274.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia