CEDAR CITY, Utah-- Countless proms in the 1990s "Saved the Best for Last" based on Vanessa Williams' somehow-popular hit. UND did it Saturday, dancing out of Southern Utah with an improbable 68-65 win in Big Sky Conference play.
Senior Makailah Dyer scored 17 fourth-quarter points to lead North Dakota back from down as many as 16. The visitors owned the final period, out-scoring the Thunderbirds, 26-9, en route to its eighth straight league road win.
Samantha Roscoe added 20 points, five rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots off the bench for UND, who remains one of two undefeated teams in conference play (Northern Colorado). Chastity Franklin had season-highs with 11 assists and eight rebounds in the win. Fallyn Freije chipped in a career-best 10 rebounds for the Fighting Hawks (9-6, 4-0 Big Sky).
"Three time zones in three days and our first win ever in Cedar City is fun," UND head coach Travis Brewster admitted. "I'm very proud of the resiliency of this group. Our seniors stepped up on both ends of the floor and the team did as well. We are excited to get back to the Betty and our fans, recently ranked the 8th-toughest place to play in the nation."
SUU (5-9, 0-3) was gunning for its first league win and just its third in the last two seasons combined and appeared on track to do so. The TBirds used an early 8-0 spurt to grab the lead, then out-scored UND in each of the first three quarters to set-up the crazy finish.
Roscoe had 14 of her 20 in the first half, keeping the Fighting Hawks in the game. UND shot just 30 percent from the floor in the opening half, but take out Roscoe's 6-for-9 and the rest of the Fighting Hawks were just 4-of-24 (16.7) through the first 20 minutes.
Despite the shooting woes, UND dug in defensively to keep SUU at bay and it was a 36-29 game at halftime. In the third, Southern Utah opened a 16-point wound that may have been unsalvagable if not for the efforts of UND's seniors.
Dyer immediately scored a layup to open the final frame then connected from deep on the next possession to get the ball rolling on a comeback. The rally built steam with a Roscoe bucket, followed by another Dyer layup and triple. Suddenly, the deficit was just five midway through the period.
Freije added a tough, conventional three-point play to get it back within a bucket before a Lexi Klabo basket down low trimmed it to one. Trailing three with three minutes left, Dyer drove down the right side of the lane, through traffic and miraculously scored on a running, underhand lay-in while being fouled to give UND all of the momentum. She connected on the free throw to knot the game at 62-62, the first time SUU didn't lead since the first possession of the game.
Roscoe then scored a layup and blocked a pair of shots on the defensive end to keep North Dakota in front. Dyer converted another layup to make it a four-point lead with under a minute to go.
SUU wasn't finished, however, as Rebecca Cardenas recorded a three-point play for a 66-65 UND lead and 21 seconds remaining. Dyer calmly drilled a pair of free throws to stretch it to 68-65 then the defense denied a good shot on the other end with a desperation three hitting well off the mark at the buzzer to keep UND perfect in league play.
North Dakota heads home to battle defending regular season league champion Montana State Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Notes: North Dakota (1-3) picked up its first-ever win at the Centrum Arena ... UND has won five in a row overall ... North Dakota has won 16 of its last 17 Big Sky regular season games ... Dyer's 20-point effort was the 16th of her stellar career ... Roscoe picked up her third 20-point game ... UND held SUU to just two field goals in the final quarter (2-16).