GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Redshirt sophomore Danni Nichols went off for another career-type day, scoring 26 points, but in the end, it was a slow offensive start to the game by the Leathernecks (11-10, 5-3) that would ultimately turn into a 77-71 setback at North Dakota (13-8, 4-4).
Western Illinois found itself down 22-12 after a quarter, with the host Fighting Hawks’ lead peaking at 19-8 with roughly two minutes to go in the period. Nichols had eight of her 26 in the opening 10 minutes.
The Leathernecks managed to turn it around in the second quarter, not only out-scoring the Hawks, they also held them to 12 points in the second. The only negative that comes out of that is Western Illinois had 13. Doing the math puts Western Illinois down 34-25 at half.
North Dakota came out firing on all cylinders out of the halftime locker room, putting up 25 points. The third quarter saw both teams essentially trading baskets, with no real extended stoppage in scoring coming until around the 3:00 mark of the quarter. Olivia Kaufmann got a free throw with 49 seconds to go in the period, and that left Western Illinois needing to make up a 16-point deficit headed to the final 10 minutes of play.
They did all they could. Elizabeth Lutz put up a three just nine seconds in to get the ball rolling, responded to with a 7-0 North Dakota run. That was just the tip of the iceberg. The fourth quarter truly became a game of runs. Nobody was backing down. Kaufmann made a jumper inside the lane with 2:38 to go to bring the Leathernecks within nine, and a three of Kaufmann’s made it a six-point game with 1:25 to go, but that would be as close as they’d get. An impressive 28 points went up on the board, but was just barely not enough, as the Leathernecks would fall by that six point spread.
Western Illinois had a fourgame win streak snapped with the loss. A key series awaits on both Thursday and Saturday, as South Dakota State and North Dakota State will be in Western Hall. The South Dakota State game tips at 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, and the North Dakota State game tips at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.