North Dakota secures first NCAA bid

Grace Kenyon's sniffles broke the silence.

The overtime win means that North Dakota punched their first-ever ticket to the Big Dance after making the jump to Division-1 just nine years ago.

The Bobcats beat Idaho State in the finals of the Big Sky tournament, 62-56 on Saturday afternoon.

Hooker, a senior, said that after Weber State eliminated North Dakota his freshman season, he decided that celebration was what he wanted.

"We're definitely riding the wave that the girls made past year", ISU sophomore Grace Kenyon said Thursday.

ISU and MSU split their regular-season meetings, with the Bengals winning 67-59 in Pocatello on December 31 and the Bobcats winning 73-67 on March 1 in Bozeman, Mont. ISU entered Saturday's game winners in eight of the last 10 games against MSU.

Weber State shot 44 percent from the field with UND shooting 47 percent. Hill posted 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats.

"The great news about Idaho state is its' a really familiar scout", said Binford, referring to MSU's 72-61 win in Bozeman on March 1.

Nordgaard pumped her fist across her chest, like Muhammad Ali did after he knocked out Sonny Liston, and ISU never quite got off the canvas.

The Bobcats lead the Big Sky in field goal percentage defense, scoring margin, 3-point percentage defense and defensive rebounding, while ranking near the top of the league in multiple other categories. The Bengals (19-16) are 16-9 versus the Bobcats since Binford took over in 2005 and are one of three Big Sky teams with winning marks against MSU in Binford's tenure.

It was back and forth from there, with no team gaining a considerable edge until the final minutes. MSU owned a 21-6 free-throw attempt advantage and tallied a combined 10 blocks and steals. "I thought it was going to come down to rebounding and hustle plays".

Six North Dakota players scored in double figures, led by Hooker with 28 points.

The Bobcats focused on negating ISU's grind-it-out playstyle with uptempo offensive possessions and scored 15 second-chance points on 14 offensive rebounds. "I felt like we had some momentum, they had some momentum when they slowed it down, but we just wanted to play off of us and play at our strengths".

Conner Avants added 13 points on 6-of-14 shooting, and Corey Baldwin had 10 points.

Sobolewski didn't hesitate to call the season a success. He would score just one point after that. I thought we played extremely hard against Montana and followed it up tonight with a tough spirited effort against a very good North Dakota team. "It's a complete surprise to me". UND blasted Idaho 88-65 in Grand Forks on February 11 in the only matchup of the season between the two teams. "That makes you give up the ball", he said.

Then maybe runs to the championship won't be fairy tales at all.

"I think for us the key is about us, to be quite honest", Binford said shortly after the Bengals won Thursday.

  • Joanne Flowers