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Tom Miller / Forum News Service, Published March 14 2014

UND women's basketball team is one win away from NCAAs

GRAND FORKS – University of North Dakota sophomore forward Mia Loyd spoke for a lot of North Dakota basketball fans at the postgame news conference Friday.

“(Today) will be fun,” she said.

North Dakota will play for a spot in the NCAA Division I women’s basketball tournament for the first time today. No. 1 seed UND faces No. 3 Montana in the championship game at 3 p.m.

UND set up the historic game by coasting to a 78-53 victory over Idaho State in the Big Sky Conference tournament semifinals at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

“It’s every player’s dream in college basketball,” UND sophomore Makailah Dyer said. “That’s going to get us going even more than we were (Friday).”

UND, which improved to 15-1 at the Betty this year, won a Great West Conference title in 2012 but the league doesn’t boast an automatic qualifier to the NCAA tournament. UND appeared in 19 NCAA Division II national tournaments.

“One of the first things we talked about is we took care of business tonight, but there’s one more to play,” UND coach Travis Brewster said. “We talked about staying in our routines and doing what we need to do to be successful.

“This is great for the community and the university.”

UND blew this one wide open with a 19-2 run to start the game. The Bengals went 1-for-17 from the field to start, while Brewster subbed at a frantic pace in hopes of wearing down the Bengals, who were coming off an overtime win against Eastern Washington the night before in the quarterfinals.

“I think what you saw was a team playing with a purpose,” Brewster said. “We were subbing for a reason – we want to be playing our best ball (today).”

North Dakota really never let off the gas as it pushed the lead to 39-15 at halftime. UND scored at the halftime buzzer when Kelsey Knox dished across the lane during a fastbreak for Allyssa Wall, who scored just before the horn.

“Give credit to North Dakota,” Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski said. “They were ready to play today. They shot the ball very well. We wanted to take away their shots at the basket, and they did a nice job of hitting mid-range shots and mixed in a few threes.”

With UND’s healthy lead, the most incredible stat for North Dakota was that Big Sky Player of the Year Madi Buck was held scoreless in the first half and finished with four points on 1-for-6 shooting.

But the limited production wasn’t glaring as Loyd and Dyer, who scored eight straight UND points in a pivotal stretch of the first half, handled the offense. Loyd, who had a double-double by halftime, finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, while Dyer finished with 25 points off the bench.

UND, which entered the tournament ranked eighth nationally in rebounding differential, also won the battle on the glass, outrebounding Idaho State 47-30.

“We knew (Dyer) was a real good scorer,” Sobolewski said. “She’s been hot and cold this year, but we know that potential is in her. She stepped up and made things happen. She’s a tough matchup because of all the different things they do.”

Sobolewski said UND’s depth is reminiscient of his team’s reserves during the Bengals’ Big Sky tournament championship run in 2012. UND’s bench outscored Idaho State’s reserves 40-8.

“That’s what good teams have,” he said. “We had a good starting lineup (in 2012), but we had a good bench. North Dakota has all of the right makeup to be a championship team.”

IS (14-17, 11-9 BS): Tingey 2-5 1-1 5, Reed 7-22 11-14 27, Bitter 1-10 3-4 6, Jenkins 1-7 2-2 4, Schrimpsher 1-7 1-1 3, Policicchio 2-3 0-0 5, Lemon 0-1 1-2 1, Willard 1-2 0-2 2. Totals: 15-57 19-26 53.

UND (21-9, 15-5): Buck 1-6 2-2 4, Loyd 9-12 1-2 20, Wall 3-5 0-0 6, Szabla 2-4 2-3 6, Knox 0-5 2-2 2, Roscoe 0-1 0-0 0, Kiser 0-2 2-4 2, Evers 4-6 0-0 8, Dyer 6-11 10-12 25, Burck 0-2 2-2 2, Ripplinger 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 26-55 21-27 78.

Half: UND 39, IS 15. 3-point goals: IS 4-26 (Reed 2-10, Bitter 1-6, Jenkins 0-3, Schrimpsher 0-4, Policicchio 1-2, Willard 0-1), UND 5-17 (Buck 0-3, Loyd 1-2, Szabla 0-1, Knox 0-3, Dyer 3-5, Ripplinger 1-1). Total fouls: IS 19, UND 25. Rebounds: IS 30 (Reed 8), UND 47 (Loyd 14). Assists: IS 6 (Reed 3), UND 16 (Knox 4). Steals: IS 7 (Reed; Bitter 2), UND 10 (Wall; Burck 3). Turnovers: IS 14, UND 19. A: 1404.

Miller writes for the Grand Forks Herald