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Eric Peterson, Published November 09 2012

Bison women defeat Harvard in season opener

FARGO – Dani DeGagne used two “E” words multiple times as she talked about North Dakota State’s performance Friday night at the Bison Sports Arena.

“Energy and effort,” DeGagne said.

The Bison pulled down 15 offensive rebounds that led to 21 second-chance points. The blue-collar approach sparked NDSU to an 81-72 victory against Harvard in nonconference Division I women’s basketball.

“We were relentless on the glass on both ends,” Bison head coach Carolyn DeHoff said. “When we had a shot, we had kids flying. It’s amazing how the ball ends up in your hands. It kind of kept the momentum going our way.”

The game was the season opener for both teams. NDSU had won two exhibition games that were played against Division II competition.

“It’s a great start,” said DeGagne, who scored a team-high 19 points.

Harvard was an 18-win team a season ago and was the preseason pick to finish second in the Ivy League this season. The Bison did most of their offensive rebounding in the first half, grabbing 12 offensive boards that netted 16 second-chance points. Harvard had no offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes.

NDSU senior Janae Burich scored on an offensive rebound as time expired in the first half, giving the Bison a 38-33 halftime lead. The 6-foot-5 Burich, who sat our both exhibition games, finished with 10 points and seven boards.

“She’s a game-changer,” DeGagne said of having Burich’s presence on the glass and on defense.

The Bison started to pull away with less than nine minutes to play in the second half. DeGagne sparked a 9-2 run, scoring an inside basket with 6 minutes, 55 seconds remaining. Sophomore guard Jamie Van Kirk capped the stretch, draining two foul shots that gave NDSU a 65-56 lead with 6:27 remaining.

“What we are trying to do is establish an identity here,” DeHoff said. “I was very pleased with how tenacious we were for pretty much the whole game.”

DeGagne led a balanced Bison scoring attack. Seven different NDSU players, including DeGagne, scored at least eight points. Freshman forward Marena Whittle scored nine points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.

“That is going to be so critical for us,” DeHoff said of scoring balance. “Everyone has to be shot-ready offensively.”

The Bison played without freshman forward Holly Johnson, who was out with an ankle injury. Johnson, from Minot, N.D., had played in the two exhibition games. DeHoff said Johnson is expected to sit out Sunday’s home game against Mayville State. Johnson has a chance to return to the lineup the following game.

HARVARD (0-1): Fagbenle 5-7 2-4 12, Lippert 5-10 0-0 12, Rutzen 3-8 0-0 9, Curtis 0-3 0-0 0, Clark 6-15 2-2 15, Tummala 0-0 0-0 0, Mullins 0-0 0-0 0, Evans 4-7 0-1 11, Golen 4-6 0-0 11, McDonnell 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 27-57 6-9 72.

NDSU (1-0): Whittle 3-8 2-2 9, Burich 4-8 2-2 10, DeGagne 6-16 7-8 19, Birkel 4-11 5-6 14, Van Kirk 2-7 2-2 8, Becken 2-5 2-2 8, Linz 3-4 3-3 10, Browning 1-5 1-1 3, Gaines 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-65 24-26 81.

Half: NDSU 38, HU 33. 3-point goals: HU 12-26 (Lippert 2-5, Rutzen 3-7, Curtis 0-2, Clark 1-3, Evans 3-5, Golen 3-4), NDSU 7-15 (Whittle 1-2, Birkel 1-4, Van Kirk 2-4, Becken 2-3, Linz 1-2).

Total fouls: HU 21, NDSU 12. Rebounds: HU 36 (Fagbenle 8), NDSU 38 (Whittle 9). Assists: HU 19 (Fagbenle 5), NDSU 13 (Linz 5). Steals: HU 11 (three players 3), NDSU 10 (four players with 2). Turnovers: HU 23 (Fagbenle 4, Rutzen 4), NDSU 12 (Becken 3). A-834.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com