The University of North Dakota women’s basketball team is just seven games into conference play and are sitting at fifth in the Summit League. They took on Denver here at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Friday night and came up just short, falling to Denver 81-91. This loss boosted Denver in the Summit League rankings and they are now tied for fifth with the Fighting
All you can ask for out of a conference loss is a couple key takeaways to get better for the next game. And on Friday, the Fighting Hawks got just that.
The two main things Head Coach Travis Brewster spoke to were the amount of fouls and boxing out the opposing offense.
“Our defense let down and we didn’t box out the shooters. Those are correctable errors,” Brewster said. “We just have to keep our feet moving. We have to get back to basics and be fundamentally sound on defense.”
Sophomore forward Jaclyn Jarot had a big game for UND with 18 points, but she agreed with Brewster that the team is going to have to come together on defense as well as offense in order to pull off wins in these conference games.
“We just stopped moving the ball,” Jarot said. “Offense wasn’t moving, and defense wasn’t doing well either.”
Jarot has become a key player for the Fighting Hawks. In the absence of standout forward Lexi Klabo this year, adjustments have had to be made within the lineup and how the team plays the game. Last year, Klabo averaged 18.1 points per game for the Hawks.
“I’ve been playing a lot of post now,” Jarot said. “We have people playing a ton of different positions. We have to learn how to move our feet and play more physical on the post without (Klabo).”
Jarot has more than stepped up in Klabo’s absence. Last year, Jarot played in 29 games and ended the season with a total of 71 points. This season, with 20 games in so far, she has 189 points. Jarot is the second leading scorer on the team and is becoming someone that the Fighting Hawks rely on consistently to show up and carry a lot of the weight.
The points leader this season so far is no surprise, as she was a pivotal piece of the UND offense last year as well, senior Julia Fleecs. On Friday night, Fleecs carried the team with 21 points which included three three-pointers. Even with some uneven losses in the books, Fleecs is currently averaging 11.8 points per game.
Despite what the numbers show, Fleecs was not impressed with her own performance against Denver.
“I just need to be smarter,” Fleecs said. “There were a couple quick (fouls) that I didn’t need to get and that is on me. Can’t blame anyone for that. It was frustrating.”
UND has eight conference games still on the schedule before the Summit League Conference Tournament in Sioux Falls which takes place from March 7-10.
Last year, South Dakota State went 15-1 during the year to win the regular season and followed up with a Summit League Conference championship. The University of South Dakota finished up the tournament as the runner-up, which matched their seed from the regular season as well.
UND came in with the sixth seed and upset No. 3 Denver 80-67 in the first round of play to make it into the semifinals. This rally was not enough to carry them to the final, as they were taken down by No. 2 South Dakota 84-61.
The next game on the schedule for the Fighting Hawks will take place on Saturday, Feb. 1 in Fort Wayne, Ind. against Purdue Fort Wayne who is currently 0-6 in conference play. After that, UND will return home to take on Oral Roberts in another Summit League matchup on Friday, Feb. 7 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.