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Eric Peterson, Published January 17 2013

Bison women, Whittle clip IUPUI for conference victory

FARGO – Marena Whittle isn’t sure what she can do to top her latest heroics.

The North Dakota State freshman scored a 3-point play with four seconds remaining Thursday at the Bison Sports Arena. That clutch play lifted the Bison to a 71-68 victory against Indiana Purdue-Indianapolis in Summit League women’s basketball before 527 fans.

“It’s getting nerve wracking now,” said Whittle, who is from Australia. “I feel like I have to follow something up next week.”

Whittle has scored the winning points in back-to-back games for the Bison. The 5-foot-11 forward made a layup with three seconds remaining in Saturday’s 60-59 victory at Oakland University.

“It’s just a freshman who is starting to gain some confidence,” NDSU head coach Carolyn DeHoff said.

Whittle finished with a career-high 17 points and 14 rebounds against IUPUI. She grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds in the victory against Oakland. The Bison (7-11, 3-3 Summit) have won three of their last four games.

“I’m actually quite happy with where I am at, at the moment,” Whittle said. “My coaches are all helping me get there. Shocked, definitely is the top word. … Hopefully, I can get better.”

The final seconds were frantic.

Jaguars junior DeAirra Goss drained a pull-up

15-foot jumper to knot the score at 68-68 with eight seconds to play in the second half. Bison guard Dani DeGagne quickly grabbed the ball after it sailed through the net and fired a long looping outlet pass to Katie Birkel, who had a clear path to the basket.

Birkel missed the layup, but Whittle was there to secure the rebound and score the missed shot as she was getting fouled.

“She was coming in fast, so I was wondering if it would just ricochet off, so I just wanted to be there,” Whittle said. “It came down to I just had to get that rebound. … When the crowd went wild, that was probably one of the best parts.”

Whittle sank the ensuing foul shot, giving the Bison a 71-68 lead with 4 seconds remaining.

“We’re finally starting to find ourselves,” Whittle said.

The Bison trailed by as many as nine points in the second half before they rallied. NDSU went on a 25-6 run to turn that deficit into a 10-point advantage. Birkel capped the flurry with a foul shot that gave NDSU a 60-50 lead with 5:43 remaining.

“I’m proud of our kids in terms of making adjustments on defense,” DeHoff said. “We forced some turnovers and that’s not what our team is about.”

The Jaguars countered with a 14-3 lead to retake the lead in the final three minutes. Goss gave IUPUI a 64-63 lead after she scored off a rebound with 2:38 remaining.

The Bison had five different players score in double figures with Whittle leading the way. Birkel (16 points), Liz Keena (13), Van Kirk (11) and DeGagne (10) also reach double digits in scoring.

“It’s really good because we are passing the ball,” Whittle said. “We are finally sharing it.”

Kerah Nelson paced IUPUI with 26 points, including 18 in the first half. The senior forward helped the Jaguars build a 33-28 halftime lead.

IUPUI (9-8, 3-2 Summit): Nelson 11-16 2-4 26, Mitchell 1-3 0-0 2, Bellamy 1-3 0-0 2, Comello 5-9 0-0 12, Goss 4-9 5-6 13, Rogers 0-2 0-0 0, Teague 0-1 0-0 0, Barton 1-3 0-0 2, Sims 1-2 4-4 7, Nunley-Lash 0-1 0-0 0, Luster 2-6 0-0 4, Markovic 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 26-58 11-14 68.

NDSU (7-11, 3-3): Keena 4-4 5-6 13, Whittle 6-12 4-5 17, DeGagne 2-4 6-8 10, Birkel 6-14 4-5 16, Van Kirk 4-9 2-2 11, Johnson 0-3 1-2 1, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Gaines 1-7 1-1 3. Totals 23-53 23-29 71.

Half: IUPUI 33, NDSU 28. 3-point goals: IUPUI 5-19 (Nelson 2-4, Bellamy 0-1, Comello 2-5, Goss 0-1, Rogers 0-2, Barton 0-1, Sims 1-1, Luster 0-2, Markovic 0-2), NDSU 2-11 (Whittle 1-4, Birkel 0-2, Van Kirk 1-2, Johnson 0-1, Gaines 0-2). Total fouls: IUPUI 20, NDSU 15. Rebounds: IUPUI 32 (Sims 6), NDSU 35 (Whittle 14). Assists: IUPUI 11 (Comello 3, Luster 3), NDSU 14 (DeGagne 6). Steals: IUPUI 8 (Comello 3), NDSU 11 (DeGagne 6). Turnovers: IUPUI 17 (Luster 5), NDSU 18 (Whittle 5, Van Kirk 5). A-527.


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