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Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published December 08 2013

Gophers take down UND in final seconds

MINNEAPOLIS – The University of North Dakota came close to beating a Big Ten team Sunday. A couple of years ago, when UND was a Division I newcomer, that may have been enough.

That’s far from the case now since UND’s Division I transition years are in the rear-view mirror.

UND led for much of the game but Minnesota’s Shayne Mullaney dropped in an 8-footer with 3 seconds to play, giving the Gophers a 46-44 win over North Dakota before 3,568 fans at Williams Arena.

It was a frustrating loss, one that didn’t have much of a silver lining against a Big Ten program.

“We don’t take any solace in these types of losses,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “We play every game to be competitive.”

North Dakota led 35-19 early in the second half. UND, led by Madi Buck’s 17 points, was aggressive on offense and solid on defense.

The Gophers, who played without leading scorer Rachel Banham (22.2 ppg), were disjointed and didn’t have much going until 6-foot-5 Amanda Zahui B. got going in the second half. Her strong inside play led the Gophers on a 12-0 run – a spurt that cut UND’s lead to 35-31 with 13:48 left.

Zahui B. had nine of the points, and her play finally pumped some life into Minnesota’s crowd.

“Our post players did a good job on her in the first half and our help-side defense was there,” said Buck. “In the second half, she kind of got away from us.”

It was a two-player show for the Gophers. Zahui B. scored 25 points, while Mullaney added 10 – including the game-winner.

Scoring balance lacked for UND, too. Besides Buck, no other North Dakota player managed more than seven points. Freshman point guard Leah Szabla finished with those seven points and she added six assists in an overall strong game against the Big Ten school.

“People have to step up scoring-wise,” said Buck, a senior.

But UND was lacking one of its top scorers, as well. Megan Lauck, who averages nine points, sat out with a knee injury suffered last week at Milwaukee. There is no word on her return.

After the Zahui B.-led run, the Gophers eventually took the lead at 38-37. There were four more lead changes before Mullaney hit her game-winner.

UND’s chance for the tie came up short when Siri Burck’s 18-footer at the buzzer was partially blocked.

“It was a fair look but at the same time we have to execute down the stretch,” said Brewster. “There was a four-minute stretch when we got caught looking at the clock instead of playing the game.”

UND, which shot only 26 percent, made only three field goals in the second half – all from Buck.

“We can’t go seven, eight minutes without putting points on the board,” said Buck.

Her basket with 4:59 left gave UND its last lead at 43-42. Her free throw with 4 minutes to go tied the game at 44. The final minutes were physical on both ends of the court and whistles were optional.

Minnesota improved to 9-2, while UND dropped to 3-3.

“Being up 16 points on a Big Ten school and holding a Big Ten school to 46 points, you can’t ask for more,” said Buck. “We just have to put two halves together. We’ve got (North Dakota State) coming up on Saturday. That’s our mindset now.”

UND: Mia Loyd 2-14 0-0 4, Madi Buck 6-14 3-4 17, Allyssa Wall 2-3 1-2 5, Leah Szabla 1-6 4-6 7, Siri Burck 0-5 0-0 0, Kelsey Knox 1-3 2-2 5, Emily Evers 1-4 2-2 4, Katie Houdek 1-4 0-0 2, Ellen Kaiser 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-53 12-16 44.

Minnesota: Micaella Riche 0-3 1-2 1, Amanda Zahui B. 9-14 7-9 24, Shayne Mullaney 4-13 2-2 10, Sari Noga 1-6 1-2 4, Joanna Hedstrom 1-2 0-0 3, Stabresa McDaniel 1-8 0-0 2, Kayla Hirt 0-1 1-2 1, Jackie Johnson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 16-50 12-17 46.

3-pointers - UND 4-16 (Loyd 0-1, Buck 2-7, Szabla 1-1, Burck 0-5, Knox 1-2), Minnesota 2-10 (Mullaney 0-1, Noga 1-6, Hedstrom 1-2, McDaniel 0-1); Rebounds - UND 36 (Loyd 13), Minnesota 40 (Zahui B. 12); Assists - UND 11 (Szabla 6), Minnesota 10 (Mullaney 4)

Nelson writes for the Grand Forks Herald