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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 10 2011

Oral Roberts overcomes 19-point deficit to defeat Bison women

FARGO - Taking a double-digit lead is not the problem for North Dakota State when facing Oral Roberts. Closing the women’s basketball deal has been another matter.

It was the same story, different gym Monday night.

One year after surrendering a 17-point lead in Tulsa, Okla., NDSU saw a 19-point spread go awry at the Bison Sports Arena. Like a boxer who was on the ropes early, the Eagles survived an early knockdown and kept jabbing at the Bison to take an 84-74 Summit League victory.

It kept them unbeaten in the conference at 6-0 with a sweep of the Dakota schools. NDSU saw its chance of closing within a half game of the lead with a second half offense that went stagnate.

“We’re up by 12 and all of a sudden were down five,” said Bison guard Hannah Linz. “It was like, ‘geez.’”

That, 26 turnovers and 22 offensive rebounds by the Eagles didn’t help, either.

“It’s a loss,” said Bison head coach Carolyn DeHoff. “The situation happened. I have to look back at it and get this thing right for the kids.”

NDSU and ORU have had some back-and-forth battles in their three years in the league together. It only took NDSU five minutes to get Oral Roberts out of its full court press. The Bison, hitting nine of its first 11 shots, shredded it in taking a 23-11 lead with 14:05 left in the first half.

Included in that barrage were 4 of 5 3-pointers by three players and Abby Plucker’s 10 points. Later, Linz’s 3-pointer made it 28-13 with 10 minutes left. Biggest lead was 37-18 at the 7:50 mark.

But there was still lot of game remaining and ORU never panicked.

The Eagles closed the gap to 48-37 at halftime, weathering 17 of 27 Bison field goals for 63 percent. Plucker had three 3-pointers and counting a win over Centenary had a string of seven straight from that range.

“I was a disappointed coach at halftime with our execution,” said ORU head coach Jerry Finkbeiner. “But I also gave credit to the North Dakota State girls, they were playing well. I’m proud of our girls for staying the course.”

The Eagles turned up the defensive heat in the final 20 minutes. An attack half court zone defense had the Bison looking confused as the game wore on.

“We need kids to attack the rim,” DeHoff said.

It wasn’t a game for the meek. Bison center Janae Burich saw trainer George Okamatsu twice, once after turning her ankle in the first half and another after a shoulder injury early in the second half that ended her night.

And when starter Danielle DeGagne fouled out with almost seven minutes remaining, the Bison were strapped for depth.

“Losing Janae hurts defensively and offensively with a presence at the rim,” DeHoff said. “Once she was out, they could extend their defense.”

The Eagles won despite going 3 of 21 from 3-point range. High-scoring guard Kevi Luper led with 29 points, 21 of them in the second half.

“They did not come easy,” Finkbeiner said. “That was the hardest 29 she’s had in her year and a half.”