MACOMB, Ill. — Fans knew that round two between Western Illinois (12-11, 6-4) and North Dakota State (6-15, 3-6) would be just as exciting as it was when they met in Fargo, a double-overtime thriller that went to Western Illinois, 79-78. Not only did the excitement hold true, it was once again redshirt junior guard Sam Pryor coming up clutch in a 86-79 Leatherneck victory.
It was a fast start for the Bison, as junior guard Michelle Gaislerova scored 12 of her team-high 20 in the opening 10 minutes. Despite the quality early minutes from North Dakota State, the Leathernecks regrouped and the teams were knotted up after a quarter, 20-20.
Enter the back and forth affair, and it lasted essentially the rest of the game. The second quarter alone saw five threes hit between both teams. Sophomore guard Elizabeth Lutz hit two of those for Western Illinois. Meanwhile, the Bison made the most of their opportunities at the free throw line, going 6-12. Reshirt freshman guard Raquel Terrer Van Gool had a quality quarter herself, scoring eight of her 12. It was only fitting that this one would also be tied at halftime, 42-42.
Now, neither team got to the line all that much in the third quarter, but the Bison got the buckets to fall. Despite five different Leathernecks hitting the scoring column, NDSU countered with seven, paced by junior forward Emily Dietz’s six. That added up to a 64-60 Bison lead going into the fourth quarter.
Each team would trade blows like a heavyweight fight. A Pryor three at 5:22 to go gave the Leathernecks a four-point lead. A pair of free throws for redhsirt sophomore guard Danni Nichols – up four again. Momentum was officially on Western Illinois’ side when senior guard Olivia Kaufmann hit a three with 3:27 to go to put the Leathernecks up seven.
A layup by the Bison’s senior forward Rylee Nudell with about two minutes to go made it a four-point game, but that’s the closest North Dakota State would get, as a pair of free throws from Pryor with 17 seconds to go iced it.
Western Illinois got 24 points from Kaufmann. Kaufmann would also tie sophomore forward Evan Zars for the team high in rebounds with eight, as Zars also added 11 points. Pryor (16), Nichols (12) and junior guard Grace Gilmore (10) were also in double figures in scoring.
The Leathernecks return to action on Tuesday, Feb. 4, at Purdue Fort Wayne at 6 p.m. A road game follows at No. 21 South Dakota on Feb. 13 before returning to Western Hall for the final home stanza of the season on Feb. 15 and 20.