WIU Women’s Basketball falls to North Dakota. Full wrap up courtesy of WIU Athletics Department.
MACOMB, Ill. – Amped up to be back in game action on Thursday night (Jan. 13), Western Illinois women’s basketball (11-4, 2-2) found itself in a foot race versus North Dakota (9-8, 3-3) at home. The offensive tempo maintained a fast pace for much of the evening’s duration, as the Fighting Hawks ultimately put away a 76-65 decision.
Thursday was WIU’s first game in nearly two weeks, along with being the team’s second loss at home.
“They (North Dakota) do an excellent job of hitting jump shots, and several of our good defensive possessions ended with us giving up an offensive rebound,” WIU head coach JD Gravina acknowledged. “We played well in spurts but, once we were behind in that third quarter, we made things difficult for ourselves and didn’t quite have the offensive firepower to get over the hump.
“Getting in a rhythm again, along with working around our offense to make sure the ball doesn’t stick, will help us get back on track.”
Both sides opened the contest with fast scoring attempts but not getting much to fall. Samantha Pryor spotted Jada Thorpe on the left wing for a three-pointer, and Evan Zars scored down low to have Western up, 9-4. After UND tried to cut the lead down a bit following a media timeout, Mallory McDermott swished a shot from far out. A free throw by Elizabeth Lutz, with the Fighting Hawks adding two of their own, ended the first period, 15-10 in WIU’s favor.
Having succeeded best around the rim in the first ten minutes, the Leathernecks struggled with looks around the perimeter during the second quarter. Mid-range buckets continuously fell for UND, tying the score at 20-20 just under the six-minute mark. Three additional tied scores happened in the next 3.5 minutes before the visitors went on a 6-0 run to enter halftime ahead, 33-27. Zars had a productive first half with nine points and five rebounds.
Offensive efficiency best describes the third quarter’s opening portion. Pryor knocked down back-to-back triples as the two opposing squads traded baskets. UND again used its halfcourt flow to surge on a run after another media timeout. Tallying points in various ways, the Fighting Hawks utilized a 14-5 boost to end the third period still on top, 59-48. Pryor literally could not miss during that frame, pouring in 10 points on 4-4 shooting.
Realizing time wasn’t quite on its side, WIU tried to make something happen right away in the fourth. Danni Nichols finished on a nice backdoor find from Thorpe, and the latter went 2-2 at the charity stripe to have her Leathernecks down 63-54. However, the closest Western got was within a seven-point deficit. Drawn fouls allowed UND to pull away in the closing minutes comfortably.
Zars led the way in points (17) and rebounds (eight) for Western. Her scoring mark was a season-high. Additionally, she swatted a block that put her at 100 for her Leatherneck career. Zars currently ranks third in the program records for career blocks.
“I think we struggled more on offense than defensively,” the forward pointed out. “We just need to focus on a few things in the gym and get back to the level we were playing on.”
Thorpe chipped in 12 points, three rebounds, and a career-high three blocks. Pryor finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and three assists. Lutz dished out the ball well (eight assists) while adding seven points and four rebounds. Nichols scored eight points.
WIU returns to its floor on Saturday (Jan. 15), hosting North Dakota State at 2 p.m. CT.