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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 01 2011

Women's basketball: Bison score a win over Southern Utah

The North Dakota State women’s basketball players made one of their teammates smile on Monday night. It was a welcome site for Danielle DeGagne.

The sophomore forward returned to Fargo on Sunday after being at home in Brandon, Manitoba, where her mother Colleen DeGagne died last week of cancer.

“It’s good to get away and it’s definitely what my mom wanted,” Danielle said. “She loved to watch me play.”

She was part of a first half dominating performance in a 74-54 victory over Southern Utah, which completed a weekend sweep and moved the Bison into the upper half of the Summit League at 6-5. DeGagne will return to Brandon today for the funeral later in the week.

Meanwhile, basketball at the Bison Sports Arena was the ideal therapy on Monday, especially how well the Bison played.

DeGagne almost had the first double-double of her two-year career with 10 points and nine rebounds.

“I’m really lucky, everyone has been great and the support is amazing,” she said.

Bison players’ eyes were swollen afterward. Head coach Carolyn DeHoff was emotional in the team’s usual thank you to the crowd at center court immediately after the game.

“What is basketball for Dani now?” DeHoff said later. “Probably an outlet and something to keep her distracted. This would be good for her.

“I don’t think any of us can maybe empathize losing your mom at such a young age. After the game, she can’t pick up the phone and call her or text her. So you try to be her rock and her sounding board. That’s the best we can do for Dani and you can feel she really appreciates it.”

Forward Abby Plucker was a rock on the court, hitting her first eight shots and finishing with 23 points and 14 rebounds. It was her seventh double-double of the season and the fourth in the last eight games.

At one point, Plucker was 10 of 11, which would have tied a Bison Sports Arena single game record for field goal percentage. But she missed her last shot, a 3-pointer with just under three minutes left.

Center Janae Burich was strong all night underneath with 17 points. This no longer looks like the team that lost six of eight last month.

“The energy level for us from start to finish is one of the best we’ve had this year,” Plucker said.

The Bison did little wrong in the first half in grabbing a big lead. Moreover, the Thunderbirds’ leading scorer, 6-2 forward Challis Pascucci, picked up her third foul with 3:09 left in the half. Katie Birkel followed with a free throw to make it an 18-point lead at 36-18.

DeGagne’s two free throws almost two minutes later made it a 20-point advantage. The Bison shot 50 percent, blocked five shots, had five steals and it was 40-24 at halftime.

DeGagne texted DeHoff on Friday night saying she wanted to play on Monday. The two talked by phone after NDSU’s win Saturday night against Missouri-Kansas City.

DeHoff asked the team their thoughts. The reply: “If that’s what Dani needs, then let her come back,” DeHoff said.

She was at practice by

5 p.m. Sunday. She said there were no winter weather problems in the 340 miles between Brandon and Fargo. Brandon is about 140 miles west of Winnipeg.

On Monday morning, DeHoff talked with Rick DeGagne, her father.

“I wasn’t sure how it would go,” DeHoff said.

The result was a two thumbs up.

“We have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Danielle said.

SUU (11-11, 5-6 Summit): Pascucci 3-6 5-5 11, Anderson 5-9 1-2 11, Sears 4-10 0-0 8, Jackson 1-12 4-5 6, Goff 2-6 1-2 6, Jones 0-7 2-2 2, Norman 3-4 0-0 8, Moreland 1-2 0-0 2, Thorley 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 19-58 13-16 54.

NDSU (10-11, 6-5 Summit): Shea 2-2 0-0 4, Plucker 10-12 0-0 23 , Burich 5-11 7-8 17, Birkel 4-17 1-2 10, Trecker 2-4 1-1 5, DeGagne 4-12 2-2 10, Linz 1-5 0-0 3, Lako 0-0 0-0 0, Peltier 0-1 0-0 0, Stephenson 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 28-65 13-15 74.

Halftime: NDSU 40, SUU 24. Total fouls: SUU 17, NDSU 12. Fouled out: Pascucci. Rebounds: SUU 34 (Pascucci 11); NDSU 43 (Plucker 14). 3-point goals: SUU 3-10 (Jackson 0-1, Goff 1-2, Jones 0-4, Norman 2-2, Anderson 0-1); NDSU 5-16 (Birkel 1-6, Linz 1-5, Trecker 0-1). Assists: SUU 11 (Goff, Jones 4); NDSU 16 (Linz 4). Turnovers: SUU 17 (Anderson 5); NDSU 12 (three with 3). A-690.

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