Kansas City starts fast, upsets Bison women in Summit tourney
No. 10 seed Kangaroos defeat No. 2 North Dakota State in quarterfinals
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — North Dakota State left the Denny Sanford Premier Center March mad on Saturday. In a rare Summit League tournament quarterfinal where NDSU was favored, the No. 2 seeded Bison suffered a women’s tourney first for them: they were the victims of an upset.
Kansas City, a team with just seven players because of injuries and COVID-19 absences and just eight victories coming in, started fast and held off NDSU 71-64. A promising Bison season that had so many highlights came to a sudden thud.
“I was excited for our team to be here, I thought they were mentally ready to do some good things,” said NDSU head coach Jory Collins. “Just put a cap on what we thought was a pretty good regular season. So they’re pretty crushed right now, we all are. It’s just disappointing to get to this environment, it’s such a great place, and then perform so badly.”
The Bison have three total wins in their Summit League history, all in the first round, and figured to have the inside track to No. 4 with their best season since 2004-05 in their back pocket. A slow start ultimately cost the Bison.
“Out of character, we weren’t us,” said NDSU guard Heaven Hamling. “We weren’t settling in, but you have to move on from it and go to the next play.”
NDSU looked almost cooked until a late third-quarter blitz that saw them cut a 54-38 deficit to trailing 56-54 heading into the final quarter. The Bison had three chances to tie or take the lead, but couldn’t break through.
Two deep 3-pointers from E’Lease Stafford put the Kangaroos up by seven and halted the Bison momentum.
“I honestly couldn’t tell you why it stopped,” Evans said of NDSU’s surge. “The third quarter showed the kind of team we can be, us making a run like that shows a lot about us but sad we couldn’t pull it out in the fourth.”
NDSU got within 67-64, but missed a 3-pointer to tie with 1:30 remaining. After a defensive stop, Hamling was off on a 3, but NDSU got the offensive rebound and called time out with 26 seconds remaining.
But the Bison turned it over six seconds later. Two KC free throws made it a two possession game.
“Anything is possible in March,” said Kansas City head coach Dionnah Jackson-Durrett.
March still isn’t over for NDSU, which most likely will get a bid to the Women’s WNIT. That field will be selected on March 12. But this one may take a bit to get over.
“I knew coming in we might have the jitters for a few minutes,” Collins said. “It ended up being a whole half but we settled in and just couldn’t make a shot in the fourth quarter.
Trouble came early for the Bison, who shot 29% in the first quarter. The Kangaroos, capitalizing on NDSU’s inability to hit open looks, even layups, and outhustling the Bison forged a 15-point advantage midway through the second quarter.
It didn’t help that Hamling missed most of the quarter with two fouls. The Kangaroos finished the half hitting 56% of their shots in taking a 41-29 lead at intermission.
The Bison couldn’t get to the break quick enough. For one, guard Menna Mensah had 16 of her 23 points in that time frame. For another, NDSU was 0 of 6 from 3-point range and struggled to get its two leading scorers, Hamling and Evans, any kind of flow.
Matters didn’t change in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Two driving layups from Sanaa’ St. Andre gave the Kangaroos a 49-33 lead, forcing the Bison to call time out.
NDSU finally broke the 3-point field goal ice, keeping the Kangaroos from running away and hiding. Evans got rolling on offense and her three buckets in a short span got the KC lead under double digits.
The rally was on. But Kansas City maintained the lead for the entire game leaving the Bison 18-11. Hamling finished with 16 points and Evans 14, but nobody else reached double figures.
The Bison shot 36%, including several in-close shots, and were 15 of 23 from the free throw line.
“When we haven’t played well this year, those have been the issues,” Collins said. “When we go back and re-evaluate our season, when we’ve been able to throw it inside and finish plays at a good level, we win almost all those games. When you don’t shoot it well from the outside, when you don’t finish well on the inside and then don’t make free throws, it’s hard to put up enough.”
KC 18 41 56 71
NDSU 13 29 54 64
KC (9-22): Stafford 6-13 2-2 17, Ugass 3-7 3-3 9, Mullens 3-4 1-3 7, Mensah 10-24 3-4 25, St. Andre 3-4 2-2 8, Harrell 2-2 1-1 5, Moreland 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-54 12-15.
NDSU (18-11): Brown 2-6 2-4 6, Behnke 1-5 5-8 7, Hamling 6-16 2-4 16, Evans 5-14 2-2 14, Schulte 1-6 0-0 2, Ekofo Yomane 4-7 0-0 8, Draper 0-0 1-2 1, Graham 2-6 3-3 8, Hildebrandt 1-2 0-0 2, Novak 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-62 15-23.Total fouls: KC 16, NDSU 17. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: KC 32 (Ugass 11); NDSU 37 (Brown, Behnke 7). 3-point goals: KC 5-20 (Stafford 3-9, Mensah 2-10, St. Andre 0-1); NDSU 5-18 (Hamling 2-7, Evans 2-5, Schulte 0-2, Graham 1-3, Hildebrandt 0-1). Assists: KC 9 (Mensah 4); NDSU 14 (Hamling, Schulte 5). Turnovers: KC 14 (Mensah 5); NDSU 10 (Schulte 4). A-6,830.