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Published January 30 2011

Doing it for DeGagne: Bison women's basketball team plays inspired basketball, with sophomore missing game following her mother's death

The North Dakota State women’s basketball team got the win Saturday night. But some things are bigger than basketball.

Like Bison sophomore guard Danielle DeGagne, who left Fargo earlier this week to be with her mother, who was battling cancer at their home in Canada.

Colleen DeGagne died Thursday night or Friday morning, according to NDSU women’s athletic director Lynn Dorn.

The Bison honored their teammate and her mother the best way they could.

Despite playing with a heavy heart, Abby Plucker finished with 19 points and a career-high 17 rebounds to lead NDSU to a 70-65 Summit League victory against the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Saturday at the Bison Sports Arena.

“It’s been really tough,” Bison coach Carolyn DeHoff said. “It just seems for the kid’s benefit, nothing seems to come easy. But is life that way? … We talked about it at the beginning of the game. ‘Let’s play this one for Dani. She is not here for you, so let’s play it for her.’ Obviously, the kids were inspired.”

As has been the case for much of the season, nothing came easy for the Bison.

NDSU had long stretches of offensive futility in the first half.

The team held a 26-18 lead when it went on a near five-minute scoring drought.

However, the Kangaroos couldn’t capitalize. UMKC shot just 26 percent from the field, and got to the free-throw line just four times.

A 3-pointer by Katie Birkel put the Bison ahead 29-21 with 3:34 remaining in the first half.

NDSU went another three minutes without a field goal before Megan Shea drilled a 3-pointer to give the Bison a 32-25 halftime lead.

“If you know Dani, she is one of those people who is always happy and smiling and encouraging everyone,” said Plucker, whose team snapped a two-game losing streak. “We really tried to take her spirit into the game today, to try to encourage each other and be there for each other. Obviously, we can’t do it the same way that Dani does, but we did our best.”

That fact was evident in Plucker’s monster game. She was all over the boards and hit 7 of 16 shots in 40 minutes of action.

Bison post Janae Burich also ramped up her intensity, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds. The Bison had four players in double-figure scoring.

“I just thought we started the game very lethargic,” Kangaroos coach Candace Whitaker said. “We weren’t playing as fast as we like to play, weren’t getting out and running. We were just out of it.”

NDSU took care of the ball in historic fashion, finishing with a school record-tying five turnovers. The Bison set the mark against St. Cloud State in 1996.

UMKC cut the lead to 67-65 with 22 seconds remaining.

However, NDSU wasn’t going to let this one slip away.

This was for Dani and Colleen.

DeHoff said that Dani has asked to re-join the team for a home game Monday against Southern Utah before she returns again to Canada for Colleen’s funeral next Saturday. DeHoff said she would talk with Dani later on Saturday night to see if DeGagne still wants to return that soon.

“We had some tears there in the end in the locker room because they played hard,” DeHoff said. “They just played hard. There are not a lot of things that are easy for them. Do you fold under it or do you respond with it? The kids fought and they fought and they fought, and they earned themselves a well-rewarded win tonight.”

UMKC (9-12, 4-6 Summit): Boyles 3-5 2-4 8, Hill 2-4 0-0 4, Thomas 2-13 2-2 7, O’Connor 6-13 0-2 14, Eldridge 2-6 0-0 4, Nezianya 0-2 0-0 0, Hall-Jones 4-9 6-6 15, Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Sikkink 1-1 0-0 3, Tinner 2-6 2-2 6, Houser 1-5 0-0 2, Bridges 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 24-67 10-12 65.

NDSU (9-11, 5-5 Summit): Shea 4-5 1-2 12, Plucker 7-16 4-5 17, Burich 5-11 5-7 15, Birkel 6-19 1-5 14, Trecker 1-5 2-2 5, Linz 1-5 2-2 5, Stephenson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-61 15-23 70.

Halftime: NDSU 32, UMKC 25. 3-point goals: UMKC 7-21 (Boyles 2-4, Thomas 1-5, O’Connor 2-4, Eldridge 0-1, Hall-Jones 1-5, Sikkink 1-1, Tinner 0-1), NDSU 7-19 (Shea 3-3, Plucker 1-5, Birkel 1-6, Trecker 1-2, Linz 1-3). Total fouls: UMKC 23, NDSU 12. Rebounds: UMKC 46 (Eldridge 10), NDSU 38 (Plucker 17). Assists: UMKC 11 (Eldridge 4), NDSU 14 (Birkel 3). Steals: UMKC 3 (3 tied with 1), NDSU 4 (Birkel 2). Turnovers: UMKC 9, NDSU 5.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com