GRAND FORKS, N.D.-- Visiting Northern Colorado shrugged-off a 10-point second-half deficit to nab a 44-41 Big Sky Conference win at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center Thursday night. UNC ran its winning streak to nine straight and pulled into a tie for first place with idle Montana in the league standings.
UND's Nicole Smart tied a season high with 14 points, a dozen coming from deep as North Dakota held a seven-point halftime edge. That lead grew to 31-21 before the Bears embarked on a 23-10 run to end the game.
North Dakota (10-16, 5-12 Big Sky) got out to the quick start, scoring the first eight points of the game, holding UNC (16-9, 13-3) without a field goal until the 14:27 mark. Northern Colorado steadily put together a run to re-tie the score two times in the opening stanza, but UND scored the final six of the first half to head into the locker room with a 26-19 advantage.
Those final two first-half possessions for North Dakota were triples by Smart and Megan Lauck. The Lauck make was from several feet beyond the arc to give UND the momentum and force a UNC timeout.
In the second half, Emily Evers answered a Stephanie Lee layup then Smart buried her fourth shot from downtown for the home team's largest lead with 17:17 remaining. From there, the Bears held UND without a field goal for over five minutes and they quickly re-tied the score 31-all with 10 straight points.
Lauren Oosdyke's jumper from the free throw line put UNC in front for the first time midway through the second half. Oosdyke added another bucket and D'Shara Strange chipped-in a jumper to stake the visitors to a 41-35 lead for a 21-4 run.
UND immediately followed with six straight points for a 41-41 score with 2:44 left. Smart's jumper started the run while Evers and Mia Loyd each contributed a pair of points during the stretch. Kim Lockridge's runner in the lane moved NC back in front in the final two minutes.
Strange missed a jumper but a UND turnover gave NC the ball and a chance to close it out. After Strange was fouled to put her at the line with the bonus, she would make the first and miss the second to give UNC a three-point lead with nine seconds left. Madi Buck grabbed the rebound and quickly got it ahead to Smart. Her 35-foot heave at the buzzer was off the mark and the Bears escaped with the road win to move into first place.
UNC had three scorers in double figures led by Molly Duehn's 12 points with 11 apiece from Lauren Oosdyke and D'shara Strange.
North Dakota's Katie Houdek returned from injury, making all four of her shots from the floor for eight points. Evers added eight while Buck was held to just two points but recorded six rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks.
UND entertains Portland State Saturday afternoon with tip coming at 2:00 p.m.