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Published March 05, 2010, 03:17 PM

Sioux women clinch Great West title

UND rallies past Houston Baptist 80-66

GRAND FORKS — Every time the University of North Dakota women’s basketball team steps on the court at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center it gives its fans a reason to cheer. On Thursday night, without a doubt, the Fighting Sioux gave the fans a reason to ‘Stand Up and Cheer’. With an 80-66 victory over Houston Baptist, the Sioux became the first team to claim the NCAA Division I women’s basketball Great West Conference title.

After trailing the majority of the first half, North Dakota (15-13, 10-1 GWC) came out strong in the second half to take the lead from the Huskies (3-22, 1-9 GWC) and grab control of the game. It took the Fighting Sioux just over five minutes to push themselves into a 10-point lead. Three minutes later, UND had bumped the advantage to 20 points.

Each member of UND’s eight-woman roster made a contribution to the win. Junior guard Mallory Youngblut (Davenport, Iowa) led the way with a 12 point, 14 rebound (nine defensive) double-double – her second in two games. With a career-high nine assists, she was just one shy of her first-career triple-double.

Senior guard Kayla Bagaason (Clearbrook, Minn.) finished with 18 points – 11 in the first half. Fellow senior Whitney Ledger (F, Bismarck, N.D.) scored 15 points, 10 from the field and five from the free throw line. Bagaason extended her double-figure scoring streak to 12-straight games and Ledger has now hit double-digits in three-consecutive games.

Junior forward Coey Lof (Detroit Lakes, Minn.) finished with 10 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard Nicole Smart (Ada, Minn.) led the UND reserves with nine points on 3-for-3 shooting from three-point range. Smart added six rebounds (four offensive).

Senior guard Alys Seay (Grand Forks, N.D.) scored four points and freshman Carly Rothfusz (G, Eden Prairie, Minn.) broke her 12-game silence with four points in the second half.

The Sioux struggled in the first half shooting just over 36 percent. With the help of 41.7 percent shooting in the second half they finished with a .391 shooting percentage. Houston Baptist shot well throughout the game (.481 from the field), but the lack of shots taken in the second half may have contributed to the loss.

Also helping things go the way of the Sioux was HBU’s 16 turnovers. UND scored 24 points off of Husky turnovers and 19 points were tallied on second chances.

Led by Raquel Jones, the Huskies finished with four players in double-figures. Jones came away with 18 points. She ended the game 6-for-8 behind the arc and was 5-for-5 in the opening half. Taniqua Hollis finished with 15 points, Megan Green had 12 points – all off of three-pointers, and Jamie Spriggs scored 10 points.

Destini Texada led HBU with 12 rebounds, but UND won the board-battle with a 47-35 rebounding advantage. Houston Baptist recorded just five offensive rebounds.

North Dakota will close the 2009-10 regular season with a final game at home. On March 6, UND will host Texas-Pan American for the first time in program history. Tip-off on Saturday is scheduled for 1 p.m. at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

With the Fighting Sioux off to a slow start, Houston Baptist jumped out to an early 14-2 lead just over four minutes into the game. The Sioux shot 1-for-9 with the lone field goal coming off a drive from Ledger across the lane.

The Huskies continued to hold off North Dakota, only allowing the Sioux to come within five points after taking the initial lead.

Just inside the three-minute mark, UND stepped into its biggest run of the game, a 15-7 advantage, and took its first lead with 44.5 seconds left on the clock. Youngblut scored the first three-points of the run dropping in the one-and-one after she was fouled on the made shot. Bagaason had eight points, Ledger two, and Lof two.

Ledger’s basket was scored as she scooped up a loose ball at the right corner, turned left, drove to the block, and kissed the ball off of the glass. Lof’s jumpshot at 44.5 was UND’s first lead-changer.

Before the horn, Hollis netted a basket to give the Huskies the 36-35 lead heading into the break.

With a fresh 20 minutes on the clock, UND proved why it stood at the top of the conference. After allowing the Huskies to hit the first basket, the Fighting Sioux poured it on with an initial 9-0 run. Just outside the 13-minute mark, Smart connected back-to-back three-pointer to give the Sioux the 58-43 lead.

UND didn’t stop there. Youngblut followed with a trey of her own and Lof followed with a quick put-back to push the lead up to 20 points.

With an ensuing 10-2 run, the Sioux took their biggest lead of the game, a 27-point advantage, with 8:07 remaining in the game.

Trailing 46-73, the Huskies tried to stage a comeback, but the Sioux, determined to grab the league championship, held them off for the win and the title.

GAME NOTES: The win extended North Dakota’s winning streak to nine games ... Kayla Bagaason is now the 28th member of UND's 1,000 Point Club and is listed as the program’s 23rd-highest scorer with 1,063 career points. With her 18 points scored tonight, she surpassed Kris Jones (1982-86), Sandi Walford (1983-86), Whitney Meier (1989-91), Theresa LeCuyer (1999-01). Bagaason is tied with Tiffany Pudenz (1997-98) at No. five in single-season three-pointers made (72), sixth in career three-pointers made (176), seventh in single-season three-point attempts (180), and 10th in career three-pointers attempted (441) ... Jossy Bergan is ranked fifth in career three-pointers attempted (492) and is No. 8 on UND's career three-pointers made (169) ... The Fighting Sioux lead the all-time series over the Huskies 5-0 (3-0 home, 2-0 away) ... North Dakota now holds an NCAA Division I transition record of 33-24 and a 10-1 record in the Great West Conference ... Since the start of the transition, the Sioux are 4-0 in the month of March and 5-1 when playing on a Thursday ... The Fighting Sioux are 766-281 all-time and 590-117 under head coach Gene Roebuck.

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