Mia Loyd and Madi Buck each recorded double-doubles as host North Dakota won its 11th game in its last 13 contests with a 62-57 win over defending Big Sky Conference champion Montana Thursday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. UND featured three different players with double-digit rebound totals as it out-boarded the Lady Griz, 49-31.
UND (11-4, 6-0) remains alone atop the league standings as the last unbeaten in conference play. Loyd finished the night with a game-high 20 points and 12 rebounds while Buck contributed 14 points and 10 boards for UND. North Dakota moved to 7-0 at home this season with the win.
The win was a gritty battle that saw UND need an 18-1 second-half run to erase a nine-point deficit and take control of the game. Montana (9-5, 3-2 Big Sky) never gave up and made things interesting down the stretch as the Lady Griz trimmed a nine-point gap to just three in the final minute-and-a-half.
Jordan Sullivan's three and later a steal by Montana and a pair of free throws got the score to 60-57 with 11 seconds to play. Facing constant full-court pressure, true freshman Leah Szablamade a pair of clutch charity stripe makes to ice the game and give North Dakota its season-high fifth consecutive win.
Montana came into the game averaging 85.2 points per game in league games, but mustered just 57 points and shot 32.3 percent from the floor, its second-lowest output of the year and easily its worst in league games. UND was able to wipe out the Lady Griz' top two scorers by handing Kellie Cole and Torry Hill each their fifth personal fouls.
The Griz led by a half-dozen in the first frame until an 11-0 run by North Dakota gave the home team a five-point cushion. Montana immmediately answered and held a three-point lead heading into what would have been the final possession. After Haley Vining's three missed the mark, UND had the ball with 2.7 left and UND head coach Travis Brewster called for a timeout.
Out of the break, Loyd fired a three-quarter court pass and three players converged to attempt to corral it. Buck was able to scoop up the loose ball and beat the buzzer with a running jumper and North Dakota took momentum into the second half, despite trailing 27-26.
Montana made its move early in the second stanza as McCalle Feller's three ball with 13:25 remaining made it a 45-36 Lady Griz lead. From there, however, Montana was held without a field goal for the next 12-plus minutes. Sullivan's steal and layup with 1:19 to go finally broke the drought to set-up the wild finish.
UND turned the ball over six times in the final two minutes but was relentless in getting to the free throw line, making five of six in the last minute, part of a night that saw North Dakota take 23 more free throws than its opponent.
Loyd and Buck each recorded their second straight double-doubles with Loyd garnering her sixth of the season and Buck with her fifth. Allyssa Wall added a career-high-tying 11 rebounds in the win as North Dakota improved to 10-1 when it wins the rebounding battle.
Cole led Montana with 13 points while Hill contributed nine points and seven assists.
North Dakota hosts Montana State Saturday afternoon at the Betty with tip at 2:00 p.m.