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Idaho State avenges prior losses to UND women's basketball, advances to Big Sky championship

RENO, Nev. -- Something had to give. The University of North Dakota and Idaho State entered the Big Sky Conference women's basketball as the two hottest teams in the league. Idaho State, however, wasn't about to budge -- on the perimeter or in th...

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UND forward Samantha Roscoe attempts to get past Idaho State’s Lindsay Brown during Friday’s semifinal game of the Big Sky tournament in Reno, Nev. (Photo courtesy of Mackenzie Kasper / Big Sky Conference)

RENO, Nev. -- Something had to give.

The University of North Dakota and Idaho State entered the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball as the two hottest teams in the league.

Idaho State, however, wasn’t about to budge -- on the perimeter or in the paint. And the Bengals weren’t about to lose to UND for a third time this season. Idaho State, strong from start to finish, downed UND 69-54 on Friday in the semifinal round of the Big Sky tournament.

UND’s impressive late-season streak and bid for a second NCAA Tournament berth in three seasons, came to an end. The Hawks (18-13) had won 13 of their previous 14 games before falling to the No. 9-seeded Bengals, who upset top-seeded Montana State on Wednesday.

Idaho State (18-14) now has won eight of its past 10 games heading into today’s title game at the Reno Events Center with a berth in the NCAA Tournament on the line.

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“It was a tough game for us,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “Really have to credit Idaho State. They came out and took it to us right away. From start to finish, they did a good job of pushing the tempo.

“We came out flat and battled back. But they answered every time we had a run.”

In a physical game with few whistles, Idaho State did something few teams were able to do against UND this season. The Bengals outrebounded UND 48-38 and held the Hawks to 27 percent shooting.

Idaho State’s defense was rock solid on the perimeter and inside, rarely allowing UND uncontested shots.

“North Dakota is a really physical team,” said Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski. “We’ve had our butts kicked more than a few times by North Dakota. Rebounding was a strong point of emphasis for us. We had to play hard and be at our best to beat them.

“To me, it’s a shame that this was a semifinal game because you could say we’re one of the hottest teams right now and so is North Dakota. It almost felt like it would be a good matchup for a championship game.”

UND opened a 4-0 lead, but Idaho State dominated the rest of the first quarter, which ended with the Bengals leading 21-11. Apiphany Woods (15 points) and Freya Newton (14) helped the Bengals gain control early.

“We never recovered from that first quarter,” said Brewster. “They did a tremendous job on the boards. They crashed and crashed and crashed. They outrebounded us by 10. And that’s usually our M.O.

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“We didn’t take care of the ball on the glass and in key situations. They did a heck of a job of taking us out of our element a little bit.”

Idaho State led 34-21 at halftime. UND had more jump to start the second half and pulled within 50-43 on a Leah Szabla (18 points) basket with 8:30 to play.

“Leah played a heck of a game,” said Brewster. “She’s one of the toughest competitors in the league.

UND’s surge, however, didn’t last long. Back-to-back baskets by Woods and Newton a couple of minutes later gave Idaho State a 57-44 lead. The Bengals then were out of any danger.

Samantha Roscoe (14) and Mia Loyd (10) also were in double figures for UND. Both agreed that Idaho State’s strong first quarter turned out to be the difference.

“Their first quarter, first half kind of took us by surprise,” said Roscoe.

And Idaho State’s defense was impressive, added Loyd, who finished with another double-double (10 rebounds).

“They came out strong and didn’t let up,” said Loyd. “When we answered, they answered back. It came down to our defensive effort.”

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UND’s season, however, may not be over.

UND’s strong RPI (No. 91) likely will land the Hawks an invitation to the WNIT or the WBI. UND should find out if it makes one of the non-NCAA tournaments early next week.

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
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