Action inside the Scheels Center could best be described as a rollercoaster ride – momentum swung back and forth through scoring droughts from Western Illinois and North Dakota State, but in the end, the home team outlasted WIU, 65-60, Friday night.
Taylor Higginbotham finished the evening with her third consecutive double-double on team-highs in points (21) and rebounds (10). Olivia Kaufmann fell a rebound shy of doing the same, adding 13 points with four assists, while Anabelle Graettinger tallied 14 points.
“We scored 25 points in the second half, and we’re just not going to win games scoring like that,” said head coach JD Gravina. “We got an awful lot of good looks. I don’t know how many times we got around our defender, had a really good look at the basket and it went in and out.
“We just weren’t doing a great job of going to finish. We didn’t get to the free throw line as much as we normally do, which says something about our aggressiveness, but really it’s mostly about our spacing. That’s a huge thing for our motion offense, and when you don’t have it, it’s tough.”
Midway through the first quarter, the Leathernecks held an 11-7 lead but were held scoreless until a layup by Graettinger with 8:49 left before halftime. The stretch was met by a 13-0 run from the Bison, but just as the rollercoaster began to hit its peak, Taylor Higginbotham came to revitalize her team.
Sixteen of Western’s second-quarter points were scored in the final four minutes of the period. In a tale of two quarters, the Leathernecks increased their offensive production from 11 points in the first to 24 in the second, but only 25 total in the second half.
Despite the lack of output, the ride continued into the latter frames with five more ties. The final stalemate sat at 60-all with 3:45 remaining and the Bison used a 3-pointer to end the deadlock.
Neither team scored between the 3:14 to 41 seconds marks as NDSU closed the game on an 8-0 run.
The Leathernecks continue their travels through the state Sunday with their first-ever Summit League matchup at North Dakota.