Bison women knock off Gophers for home victory against Power Five opponent
North Dakota State senior Taylor Brown had 16 points and 10 rebounds to help lead her team to victory against the University of Minnesota.
FARGO — North Dakota State got stellar play from its post players and timely shooting from point guard Heaven Hamling on Thursday night at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex — that combination proved too much for the Minnesota Gophers.
Bison senior forward Taylor Brown scored a game-high 16 points and added 10 rebounds to help her team earn a 71-65 victory against the Gophers before 1,759 fans at Scheels Center.
"Heaven knows how to hit big shots and when to hit them," said Brown, a graduate transfer from Lakeville, Minn.
The last time the Bison defeated a Power Five team at home was against the Gophers during the 2006-2007 season. NDSU earned a 72-69 victory against Kansas during the 2020-2021 season, a Big 12 Conference member.
"It means we're 3-0, that's what it means to me," said Bison head coach Jory Collins. "Obviously, that's a big game, that's a measuring-stick game. And when you're playing those kind of athletes, they also didn't have their best player, we're all aware of that, but I thought we went toe-to-toe with their athletes that they did have who are also going to be good players and didn't look out of place at all."
Collins was referring to Minnesota freshman guard Mara Braun, who missed the game due to a lower-leg injury. The 6-foot Braun averaged 27.5 points per game in the Gophers first two games this season.
The Bison took a 62-54 lead after freshman Abby Graham scored on a drive to the basket with 4 minutes, 44 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Graham finished with 11 points off the bench.
"She's kind of got a pit bull mentality there," Collins said. "Sometimes it's a little wild, but we like it. And when she's dialed in, she can go score on anybody."
The Gophers countered with the next seven points and cut the Bison lead to 62-61 after freshman guard Amaya Battle sank two free throws with 3:21 remaining.
That's when Hamling delivered.
She sank a 3-pointer from the wing for a 65-61 lead with 2:45 remaining. The 5-foot-8 senior added a 15-foot jumper for a 67-61 lead with1:08 to play. Junior forward Emily Behnke sank a free throw to cap the surge for a 68-61 NDSU lead with 53 seconds to play. The 6-foot-2 Behnke had 14 points and eight rebounds. That cushion proved too much for the Gophers to overcome.
"It gives us a lot of confidence moving forward, especially having so many young players who are capable of making plays," Behnke said. "I think a lot of them made some plays in a big game like this and going to help give them confidence moving forward, too."
The Bison led by as many as four points in the third quarter and took a 46-43 lead after the 6-foot-1 Brown sank a 15-foot jumper with 44 seconds to play in the quarter. NDSU carried that lead into the final 10 minutes. The Bison never trailed in the fourth quarter.
The Bison finished the first half with a flurry to take a one-point lead into halftime. NDSU scored the final seven points of the second quarter to erase a six-point Minnesota lead. Junior guard Abby Schulte started the rally with an drive and basket that cut the Gophers lead to 27-23 with 1:46 to play until halftime.
Graham capped the rally with a layup at the second-quarter buzzer for a 28-27 lead, NDSU's first of the game. The 5-foot-10 Graham scored seven points in the opening 20 minutes.
"I think it gave us some energy," Brown said.
The Gophers had a 7-0 run in the first quarter to build an early cushion. Sophomore guard Maggie Czinano capped that rally with a foul shot that gave Minnesota an 11-4 lead with 2:06 to play in the first quarter. Minnesota led by as many as eight points early in the second quarter before NDSU surged into the lead late in the opening half.
"I'd say the first quarter it took us a little bit just to mellow out, but that's the kind of stuff we have to weather to be a great team," Behnke said. "So we learned how to weather that and that's once against just helping us build some confidence moving forward."
UM 12 27 43 65
NDSU 8 28 46 71
UM (2-1): Micheaux 4-6 1-2 9, Gradwell 2-6 0-0 4, Heyer 5-9 0-1 10, Cayton 0-2 0-2 0, Borowicz 5-17 0-0 11, Battle 5-14 5-7 15, Czinano 3-8 6-8 13, Oberg 1-1 1-2 3, Hammond 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-63 13-22 65.
NDSU (3-0): Brown 7-11 0-0 16, Behnke 5-9 4-5 14, Hamling 3-12 0-0 8, Evans 2-8 5-6 9, Schulte 6-12 0-2 13, Draper 0-0 0-0 0, Graham 5-8 0-1 11, Hildebrandt 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 28-63 9-14 71.
3-point goals: UM 2-15 (Gradwell 0-3, Heyer 0-1, Cayton 0-2, Borowicz 1-7, Czinano 1-2) NDSU 6-22 (Brown 2-5, Hamling 2-6, Evans 0-5, Schulte 1-2, Graham 1-2, Hildebrandt 0-2). Total fouls: UM 20, NDSU 19. Rebounds: UM 38 (Heyer 8), NDSU 41 (Brown 10). Assists: UM 11 (Battle 4), NDSU 16 (Schulte 5). Turnovers: UM 14, NDSU 20.