CEDAR CITY, Utah-- North Dakota rallied from a 21-point second-half deficit to force extra sessions, but eventually fell, 95-94 in double overtime at Southern Utah Saturday in its season finale. Junior Megan Lauck buried a career-high six threes to rack-up a new career-best 36 points in the loss.
SUU (15-15, 9-11 Big Sky) held a commanding 21-point lead during a couple different occasions in the second half. Things looked bleak for UND as it trailed 66-46 with just over seven minutes left. A pair of Mia Loyd free throws would kickstart a miraculous 20-2 run by UND to close it to 68-66. That stretch came in a five-minute span that saw SUU make just one field goal while North Dakota got big bucket after big bucket.
Lauck's layup at the 3:57 mark made it 68-58 at the final media timeout and a slim hope to complete the comeback. She followed with a triple in front of her own bench and senior Nicole Smart added two free throws to trim it to five and silence the home crowd.
Loyd buried a three from the right wing to put it at a single possession with all of the momentum firmly resting in the visitors' hands. Hailey Mandelko answered with a tough contested jumper from the left baseline to put it back at four, but that would prove to be the final field goal for the Thunderbirds in regulation to allow UND to rally all the way back.
The lead would grow to six on a pair of free throw makes by Desiree Jackson. Undaunted, UND got another three from Lauck and after Andrea Jones made two more freebies, Loyd scored on a turnaround and was fouled for a chance to tie the score with a conventional three-point play. She calmly swished the free throw and SUU misfired on its final possession to send it to overtime.
UND didn't take its first lead of the game until the first overtime with Lauck scoring UND's first five points for a 79-77 advantage with 3:24 left. The teams traded leads and North Dakota was up 83-80 on four straight Smart points with 1:10 remaining.
SUU's Carli Moreland made two free throws to cut it to one then was fouled with 4.2 left and her team still down one. She made the first and the second fell off the left side to send it to another period.
In the second overtime, an Emily Evers turnaround jumper and another Lauck make from deep staked UND to a three-point lead just a minute in. The Thunderbirds retook the lead at the 1:42 mark before Madi Buck gave it right back to UND on a putback with 1:21 showing on the clock.
Sofia Hepworth, who played just 13 minutes with most of those coming after several SUU players had fouled out, made the two biggest buckets down the stretch. Her jumper made it 93-92 with a minute left. After Lauck made two more free throws-- to give her a perfect 12-for-12 night from the line-- Hepworth got a running right-handed layup to go with 12 seconds left to put SUU on top for good.
Carly Rothfusz got a look at a three in the closing seconds but SUU dodged the bullet and hung on for the victory.
SUU had six players etch double figures in scoring led by Kimie Hawkins' 19 points.
Smart complemented Lauck's career night with 20 points, six assists, five rebounds and no turnovers for North Dakota. Buck had 15 rebounds for UND to lead all players.
North Dakota finishes the season 11-18 overall and 6-14 in its first season in the Big Sky Conference. SUU grabbed the seventh and final spot in the postseason league tournament set to start Wednesday in Missoula, Mont.
Notes: UND was 31-of-33 from the free throw line ... It was the first double overtime game for UND since Feb. 11, 1989 (79-73 win at Morningside) ... It marked just the fourth game to reach at least double overtime in UND history ... Lauck's 12-12 effort from the free throw line was one shy of the school record for a single game (Kristi Boese, Nov. 15, 2004: 13-13) ... Lauck's 36 points are tied for the 10th-most by a UND player in a single game ... UND's last 35-point scorer came in Marisa Leighton's 35-point NCC Tournament effort on March 6, 2004 at NDSU ... Buck's 15 rebounds were one shy of her career high.