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Published February 28, 2010, 06:32 PM

Sioux women win, clinch share of conference title

UND gets 59-49 win at NJIT

By: Christy Kramer, UND

NEWARK, N.J. — Call it a happy ending to a chaotic six-day adventure, the University of North Dakota women’s basketball team call it attainment. Earlier in the season head coach Gene Roebuck and the rest of the Fighting Sioux set a goal to win the Great West Conference championship. With the 59-49 victory over the New Jersey of Institute of Technology at the Fleisher Athletic Center, the Sioux are guaranteed at least a portion of the league title.

“We played on adrenaline today,” Roebuck said. “Our team was tired. Our starters played a lot of minutes; Jossy played the whole game. We were flat-out tired, but at the end of the game they were playing just as hard as they were in the beginning.”

North Dakota (14-13, 9-1 GWC) closed the conference road schedule with a perfect 6-0 record and extended its winning-streak to eight games. The Highlanders ended their home schedule with a record of 11-14, 5-4.

“Our team played a really great game in a situation where the game got a bit physical,” Roebuck said. “We match them physically.

“I just think we played a gutsy game against a team that wasn’t going to let you just sit back and shoot the basketball.”

Junior Mallory Youngblut and senior Whitney Ledger paced UND with a set of double-doubles. Youngblut, a Davenport, Iowa native, tallied her seventh career double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds (eight defensive). She netted a career-high six three-pointers and added a free throw to record her fifth-consecutive game in double-digits. Youngblut also registered five blocked shots.

A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ledger finished with 18 points and a career high-tying 13 rebounds (nine defensive). She shot 7-for-13 from the field and 4-for-7 at the free throw line to garner the fourth double-double of her career and her second-straight double-figure game.

“Whitney had one heck of a game, and so did Mallory,” Roebuck said. “Mallory hit some really big shots, so did Jossy. All of the players had their moments today.

“If you could have seen Whitney battle inside. She got he hands on the ball and they weren’t going to get it away from her. She did a great job. All of the players did a great job today of rebounding.”

The pair was joined in double-figures by senior Kayla Bagaason (G, Clearbrook, Minn.) who shot 5-for-18 from the field and 1-for-1 at the charity stripe for 12 points.

Each of the afternoon’s starters got on the board for the Sioux. Senior guard Jossy Bergan (Valley City, N.D.) finished with eight points and junior forward Corey Lof (Detroit Lakes, Minn.) had one field goal. Bergan had three steals and two assists. Lof finished with a five assists and two steals.

The Fighting Sioux shot .385 (20-for-52) from the field, .292 (7-for-24) at three-point range, and .750 (12-for-16) at the free throw line. The Sioux were a perfect 2-for-2 at the charity stripe in the opening half. UND took advantage of NJIT’s 14 turnovers, scoring 24 points and 12 points were recorded off of second chances.

The Highlanders were led by Jessica Gerald, who finished with 20 points and six rebounds on 6-for-20 shooting from the field and a 4-for-8 performance at the free throw line. Taiwo Oyelola tallied a double-double for NJIT with 10 points and 12 rebounds (seven defensive).

NJIT finished 16-for-62 (.258) from the field, .294 (5-for-17) beyond the three-point arc, and .706 (12-for-17) at the free throw line.

The win ended the regular-season road schedule for the Fighting Sioux who will return to their home court next week. North Dakota will host Houston Baptist and Texas-Pan American for a pair of conference games. The Sioux will tip-off with the Huskies at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 4 and will face the Broncos at 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 6.

“We’d like to get two more wins and clinch the league title for ourselves,” said Youngblut. “Do it for our home fans, on our floor, and show them what we have been working towards.”

UND will then head to Orem, Utah for the inaugural Great West Conference Tournament, March 10-13.

NJIT scored the first bucket of the game, a three-pointer on the right wing by Gerald, but the Fighting Sioux quickly equalized and ignited a 12-3 run. Youngblut, Ledger and Lof were the playmakers for UND in the opening nine minutes. Youngblut nailed two treys in the opening five minutes, including the tying score. Lof, who assisted Youngblut on both baskets, scored her own two points on a pass from Ledger as she cut through the lane.

Lof also banked an assist to Ledger, who tallied the remaining four points of the run.

Leading 12-6, the Sioux pushed the lead into double-digits for the first time with a three-pointer from Bagaason at 7:20. The Highlanders cut the margin down to four as Gerald hit a pair from three-point range. UND out-scored NJIT 9-4 in the final minutes to head into the lockerroom with a 29-20 advantage.

Back out for the break, both teams battled back and forth through the opening eight minutes until the Fighting Sioux broke away with a brief 9-2 run to take a 13-point, 53-40 lead.

Through the final minutes, UND shot 5-for-8 at the free throw line to hold off the Highlanders and collect its seventh-straight win of the season.

GAME NOTES: Today’s game closes out the regular-season road schedule for North Dakota, who finished with a perfect 6-0 conference record ... Kayla Bagaason is now the 28th member of UND's 1,000 Point Club and is listed as the program’s 27th-highest scorer with 1,045 career points. Bagaason is just one point away from tying Kris Jones (1982-86) with 1,046 career points. Bagaason is listed No. 8 in single-season three-pointers made (69), seventh in career three-pointers made (173), and 10th in career three-pointers attempted (435) ... Jossy Bergan is ranked fifth in career three-pointers attempted (494) and is No. 8 on UND's career three-pointers made (167) ... This marks the second time North Dakota and NJIT have met on the hardwood. UND leads the series 2-0 … North Dakota now holds an NCAA Division I transition record of 32-24 and a 9-1 record in the Great West Conference ... Since the start of the transition, the Sioux are 10-1 in the month of February and 5-5 when playing on a Sunday ... The Fighting Sioux are 765-281 all-time and 589-117 under head coach Gene Roebuck.

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