UND Headed Back to Elite Eight
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The University of North Dakota women's basketball team is headed back to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. The Fighting Sioux beat Nebraska-Kearney 108-75 tonight in front of 2,346 fans in the final of the North Central Regional at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
UND, the top seed in the region and playing on its home court, shot an impressive 65.1 percent and had five players score in double digits. Sixty-five percent is the highest mark by UND this season, outdoing last Saturday's 55 percent in the regional semifinal.
The most impressive part of UND's win was its tenacity. The Sioux had a very impressive first half, shooting 18-of-30 (60 percent) from the field. However, Kearney kept with the Sioux, shot 59.3 itself and was within 46-40 at half.
But UND had another level.
The Sioux scored three field goals on its first three possessions of the second half and held a 52-42 lead. Amy Mathis hit a three-pointer after the teams traded baskets to pull within 54-47 at 18:02, but that would be as close as the Lopers got the rest of the way.
But still, Kearney continued to hang in with the Sioux for a few more minutes. Melissa Hinkley hit a jump shot and pulled the Lopers within 60-51 with 15:03 remaining. The Sioux turned the ball over on its next possession, and the Lopers looked like they would inch a little closer. Hinkley couldn't connect, however, and from that point on, the Sioux showed no sign of stopping.
UND scored points on its next seven possessions and held a 77-57 lead, finally getting some breathing room with 10:19 remaining. The Sioux got points from everyone during that run. Junior Ashley Langen had three lay-ups in the paint, recording nine of her game-high 21 points. Kelsy Maffin, the regional's Most Outstanding Player, hit a three-pointer. And Karla Beck had a steal and a three.
It was all UND from there.
Another impressive aspect of UND's win was its consistency. The Sioux shot well from all over the court. Langen was 9-for-9, making a living in the paint. After a slow start, Kierah Kimbrough, UND's other post player scored 12 in the second half and finished with 17. UND was also 10-of-21 from behind the three-point line. Beck did much of that, hitting on 3-of-5 from behind the arc and scoring 13 points and nine assists, matching a career high.
For the second straight game, Maffin and Danye Guinn were key in the first half. Each had a solid stat line and didn't make mistakes. Maffin ended with 15 points, while the Guinn ended with 14.
Things were a little tense for a while in the first half. After a back-and-forth opening few minutes, UND built double digit lead by the 10:19 mark. It's biggest lead was 40-25 with 6:11 remaining.
However, the Lopers continued to stay with the Sioux. Led by 14 first half points from both Mathis and Liz Fischer, Kearney scored the final 15 of 21 points of the half. Mathis and Fischer ended with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Hinkley ended with 14, while Jade Meads scored 10.
NOTES: Jahner had a career-high 11 assists ... 108 in most points scored in an NCAA postseason game. ... UND set a team record for field goals made in a season ... Kearney coach Carol Russel gave birth to a baby boy earlier in the day ... An North Central Conference school has qualified for the Elite Eight under its current format dating back to 1983.
All-North Central Region Team:
- Kelsey Maffin, UND (Most Outstanding Player)
- Kierah Kimbrough, UND
- Ashley Langen UND
- Liz Fischer, Nebraska-Kearney
- Katie LaViolette, Concordia-St. Paul
-- Courtesy FightingSioux.com