SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Down 17 points at halftime, Sacramento State opened the third quarter on a 19-6 run to get within a four-point deficit but North Dakota pulled back away in the fourth quarter for a 92-78 win on Wednesday night in The Nest.
North Dakota (20-8, 15-2 Big Sky) clinched at least a share of the regular season Big Sky title with one game remaining in the regular season. Sacramento State (10-18, 6-11 Big Sky) could still finish as the No. 8, 9, or 10 seed in the final conference standings. The Hornets will open play at the Big Sky Tournament in Reno on Monday at either 12:05 p.m. or 5:35 p.m.
On Thursday North Dakota proved its standing as one of the best teams in the Big Sky, shooting 56% from the field and making 26-of-29 free throw attempts. The Fighting Hawks entered the game ranked fifth in NCAA Div. I in made free throws and made a living at the line in The Nest.
The Hawks shot a robust 65% in the first half including 13-of-17 (77%) from the field in the second quarter. UND had an early 11-0 run to take a 15-5 lead and was up 24-16 after one quarter.
Sacramento State got back within a 24-20 deficit early in the second quarter but was outscored 28-15 the rest of the way with North Dakota making nine consecutive shots at one point. UND scored 22 points in the paint in the period and was 2-of-3 from 3-point range to lead 52-35 at the half.
The Hornets came out firing in the third quarter, outscoring North Dakota 19-6 over the first six minutes of the period to trail just 58-54. Sacramento State had two shots to get within a one-possession deficit but could not do so, and UND ended the quarter on an 8-2 spurt to go back ahead by 10.
The visitors shot 7-of-12 from the field and 11-of-13 at the line in the fourth quarter, going back ahead by as many as 18 points in the final minute.
Sacramento State shot well, finishing at 42% overall and 9-of-10 at the free throw line, and actually outrebounded the taller Fighting Hawks for most of the game but ended with a 33-33 tie in boards. The Hornets had 18 offensive rebounds but turned those into just 15 points. North Dakota also forced 16 turnovers while committing just 15 with a 16-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
For the Hornets junior point guard Justyce Dawson just missed her second straight double-double, finishing with a career-high tying 14 points and nine assists shooting 6-of-8 from the field. Senior Brianna Burgos also had 14 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and senior Gretchen Harrigan had 12 points after missing the last two contests due to injury.
Makailah Dyer had 21 points and five assists to lead UND. Lexi Klabo added 20 points and a game-high nine rebounds and Leah Szabla had 19 points shooting 9-of-9 from the free throw line.
The Hornets end the regular season hosting Northern Colorado at 7:05 p.m. Friday night. The Bears are third in the Big Sky at 21-7 overall and 13-4 in league games.