North Dakota shoots for strong finish

UND women’s basketball team plays at home, prepares for Sacramento State matchup


UND’s Mia Loyd. Photo by Nicholas Nelson/The Dakota Student.

Tuesday’s practice was different.

By the time it was over, the players on the UND women’s basketball team had reviewed what they wanted to accomplish and laid out their goals for the season.

North Dakota returned to Grand Forks last weekend after a roadtrip to Montana and Montana State, neither outcome as successful as the team had hoped.

Two losses — more ambition to mentally refocus.

“I think for myself as a coach, the reason I approached it that way was because I really thought we needed to kind of take a step back and reassess some things,” UND coach Travis Brewster said.

Montana’s victory over UND kept it alive atop Big Sky standings, putting North Dakota at No. 4 as of Wednesday. With a handful of critical games left on tap, glancing at the scoreboard is nearly unavoidable.

“As a coach, you’re always going to watch the scoreboard,” Brewster said. “I think the thing about it is you can only control your scoreboard, and that’s it. The key is we have to take care of ourselves at this point. This team, they get here and play. It’s exciting to watch because you know they’ve got the potential to do it. The other part it of it is, we also know they’ve got a lot of fight in them. There’s no reason for anybody to panic or anything like that. We’ve just got to take care of ourselves.”

Though the two road losses spurred a reevaluation of the team’s goals, Saturday’s game against Sacramento State at 2 p.m. will prove a chance for redemption.

North Dakota played Portland State on Thursday, and will continue its home stretch against the Hornets on its familiar home court.

North Dakota has been successful at the Betty this season, losing only once at home on Dec. 10 against Minnesota.

“You can feel the home court advantage when you walk in the door,” Brewster said. “I think the other things is our players have a lot of confidence playing at home — they just do. It’s harder to have that confidence on the road. It takes a little bit more will, and, at the same time, you have to execute a lot better, obviously.

“But they feed off our crowd. Our crowd is great; they’re tremendous. I can’t put it into words. It’s just been awesome. We’re very fortunate to have that type of backing.”

That energy will be evident this weekend against Sacramento State, a team that defeated UND 93-86 on Jan. 8. The Hornets hold the series advantage over UND, winning four of the five total games played.

North Dakota has been focusing on its rebounding and defense as of late, hoping to come out strong and hungry in front of loyal fans.

These games are more than a run toward the top.

The seniors on UND’s roster know these games will be some of their last. Four more regular season games at home, and a few more chances to take in the closing weeks of their college basketball careers. Brewster knows it, too.

“You’ve got seniors — they’re starting to trickle down to their last few home games of their career, things like that,” Brewster said. “You get more excited for those games. At the same time, those games mean a little bit more.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].