SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Senior Leah Szabla surpassed 1,000 career points with 19 Wednesday while Makailah Dyer added 21 and Lexi Klabo chipped in 20 in North Dakota’s 92-78 victory at Sacramento State to clinch at least a share of the Big Sky Conference’s regular season title with a game remaining. UND can claim the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a Friday win at Portland State or a Montana State loss to Weber State.
"To start strong is good, to finish strong is epic, you only need to overcome the distance in between," UND head coach Travis Brewster said. "We have come a long ways, but we are still striving for more. In our lockeroom, I tell them if you want to find an excuse, you waill. If you want to find success, you will put in the work.
"I'm proud of these ladies and thankful for my staff: Nate Baukol, Steph Nunez, Jessica Kielpinski, Katelin Oney, Adam Jacobson and Mallory Bernhard. The process would not have been the same without them."
Szabla became the 35th UND player to reach quadruple digits, sixth in the Big Sky era, as North Dakota took an early lead and never looked back. An early spurt put the visitors up, 15-5, in the early minutes. North Dakota (20-8, 15-2 Big Sky) answered with an 11-0 run to lead for good. That advantage ballooned to as many as 17 with a 52-35 edge at halftime.
But, Sacramento State rallied to get it back within four in the early stages of the third quarter. It would get no closer, however, as Szabla and Klabo combined to go 8-for-8 from the free-throw line during a UND stretch that saw the Fighting Hawks without a field goal for more than the final five minutes of that third quarter.
UND picks up its second league crown in the last four years and tied its most league wins in Big Sky play. UND plays at Portland State Friday with a 9:00 p.m. Central tip.
Notes: North Dakota has won 15 regular season league championships (11 North Central Conference, 2 Great West, 2 Big Sky) ... UND's last regular season title came exactly three years ago with a 61-57 road win at Eastern Washington, Mar. 1, 2014 to clinch a share of the Big Sky in North Dakota's second season in the league ... UND now has 25 seasons with 20 wins or more, three in the NCAA Division I era ... Wednesday's win was UND's ninth road win of the season, its most road wins in its D1 era ... North Dakota has won 27 of its last 30 Big Sky Conference games ... UND is now 15-4 in its last 19 road games .. Dyer etched her 19th career 20-point game of her career ... She has scored 89 points combined in UND's current four-game win streak (22.3 ppg).