Seniors shoot home victories

UND senior Madi Buck shoots the ball last Saturday against Sacramento State. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.

Seniors Madi Buck, Allyssa Wall and Katie Houdek ended their regular season home game careers on a good note with two wins over the weekend. Both Thursday and Saturday saw UND (17-8, 12-4 Big Sky) defeat its guest by a margin of 30 points, beating Northern Arizona 71-41 on Thursday and Sacramento State on Saturday, 87-57.

“I’m just proud of my teammates, I couldn’t have done it without them,” Buck said. “It was a really good team win.”

Before Saturday’s game started, the three seniors were recognized for their four years of play and were awarded gifts with their parents. Buck and Wall both started in the game, but Houdek, who has been out with injuries all season, cheered for her team from the bench.

Hornet defeat

Sacramento State gave UND its second conference loss of the season in California last month, but the Hornets’ trap defense didn’t work the second time around, and the Green and White showed how far they have come as a team with the win.

North Dakota got off to an early start, sophomore Mia Loyd with two buckets right away, and UND kept the lead for the duration of the game. Four players ended the game with double figures, Buck leading the way with 20 points. Loyd added 18 points with 12 rebounds and Wall had 11 points with 10 rebounds.

Sacramento State (16-9, 8-8), which usually scores around 90 points per game, got into early foul trouble partly due to its trap defense, putting UND into bonus within minutes of the tipoff.

UND didn’t take one 3-pointer the entire game, and waited until 12 seconds left on the shot clock to shoot on almost every play, but the strategy worked — North Dakota shot 83 percent in the second half to solidify its lead and capture its second win in a row.

“I thought we were playing half a hockey game, half basketball the way subs were going,” Wall said. “We played them once and kind of got used to their pace, and I can definitely tell you traveling out there to play at their pace was a lot harder than staying home and playing at that pace, but we had our rotation down and coach prides himself on keeping us in shape, so I guess he got to see that we were tonight.

“Our coaching staff did a great job of doing their homework … They did a great job kind of telling us what to expect and drawing up game plans and all we had to do was execute.”

Heads in the game

Despite the Green and White’s staggering victory on senior day, the leaders of the team look at the game as they would any other.

“It’s really nice right now, but come Monday, it’s just another game in the books,” Wall said. “Season isn’t over yet, and hopefully it’s not the last time we play here in the Betty. We have a shot to host for the first time and that’d be great, that’d be terrific, but right now it’s still back to the drawing board.”

If UND becomes regular season champion, Grand Forks will host the Big Sky Conference Tournament.

Wall isn’t the only senior with her head still in the game — Buck also remains focused and isn’t letting the emotional last regular season home game break her concentration.

“I just think it’s one of those things that, we have so much season left and a bunch of big goals that we’re still trying to accomplish that no, it really hasn’t sunk in yet — just because we have so many exciting things in front of us that we put ourselves in good position to accomplish,” Buck said. “So as of right now, no, it hasn’t sunk in, but I’m sure it will.”

UND coach Travis Brewster gives the seniors credit for leading the team, recognizes how badly they all want the win and looks at just how far UND has come as a team.

“When you get a 30-point win at home, it tells you we’re playing some pretty good basketball together,” Brewster. “But again, I think it really falls on the seniors and how they’ve been handling themselves and how they’ve been handling practices. They’ve been really focused.”

The head coach also felt emotion on senior day.

“I think they’re pretty emotional about it right now, but it’s an emotion of excitement,” Brewster said. “It’s probably a little bit harder on me than it is on them … When you play at the University of North Dakota you play for the right reasons — you play for the university, you play for the community and you play for each other, and I’m proud of them for that.”

North Dakota plays two of its last three regular season games this week away from Grand Forks, facing No. 10 Portland State on Thursday and fourth-ranked Eastern Washington on Saturday. Games start at 9 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.

“We’re on the right track to (host),” Buck said. “We gotta just keep the pedal to the metal and keep going as hard as we have been, and just make sure that we play our basketball these next three games and try to get it done.”

Marie Monson is the multimedia editor for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].