Hawks soaring in the Big Sky

UND guard Kelsie Knox looking to pass the ball out to a teammate in a game earlier this season against Northern Arizona University. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student

The women’s basketball team has won six in a row with contributions coming from both seniors and freshmen.

Just like their male counterparts, the UND women’s basketball team is playing its best basketball of the season.

The Fighting Hawks have gone 7-1 in their last eight games and are currently on a six-game win streak, making them one of the hottest teams in the Big Sky Conference.

First on Thursday night UND took on Idaho State in Pocatello, Idaho.

While the two teams had similar overall records, the Bengals have struggled in Big Sky games but that would not matter for this game.

The game was a back and forth affair with both teams struggling to find their rhythm.

The big difference in the game though was UND’s supporting cast when the starters were having an off night.

Both Mia Loyd and Makailah Dyer struggled shooting the ball and went a combined four for 20 from the field.

Kelsey Knox and Leah Szabla logged some crucial minutes for the Hawks as Knox knocked down some key three pointers and Szabla led the team in scoring with 12 points.

But UND would need its starters in the last few minutes as Idaho State caught fire and went on a 7-0 run to tie the game with two minutes to go. Loyd would go on to hit a clutch two point shot to put UND up for good as the defense would close out the tightly contested game, 60-57.

“Tonight was a team win, I thought we got a big lift from our bench,” UND coach Travis Brewster said. “Obviously, the third quarter was crucial, but it was the defensive intensity out of our players that won it for us. I thought they did a tremendous job.”

UND showed grit in finishing off Idaho State. They would need that same toughness the following Saturday night as the Hawks continued their road trip against Weber State.

It became apparent early on against the Wildcats that both Loyd and Dyer learned from the previous night’s struggles.

Loyd played like the Preseason Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, scoring 22 points and collecting 14 rebounds, good for her 32nd double-double of her career. Dyer also had a strong game, accounting for 15 points, a career high nine rebounds and four assists.

But once again, it was the freshmen who would have a huge impact on the game. Szabla came in clutch in the final minute of the game as she hit the two-point shot that would send the game to overtime.

From there, UND took care of Weber State, outscoring the Wildcats 15-8 in overtime and winning the game 85-78.

It wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.

“Our ugly is beautiful. We figure it out one way or another,” Brewster said. “It was a gutty performance out of my upperclassmen. Mia Loyd and Leah Szabla led the way this time. That’s the nice thing about my upperclassmen, I can count on any of them on any given night.”

As the dust settles on the weekend’s games, UND currently sits at No. 5 in the Big Sky Conference. Next up, the Hawks face Eastern Washington at 7 p.m.  on Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Arena.

Alex Stadnik is the sports editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]