GRAND FORKS, N.D.-- North Dakota ran out to a 17-point halftime lead and withstood a Montana State counter en route to a 79-70 win for its first Big Sky Conference victory of the season Saturday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. UND's Lexi Klabo and Fallyn Freije each reached the 20-point plateau boosting the Fighting Hawks to a victory over last season's league tournament champion.
UND (8-7, 1-3) made just 2-of-20 from the three-point line in Thursday's loss against Montana but hit early on each of its three attempts from deep early to race out to an early advantage. It was 9-2 quickly with triples from Jill Morton and Melissa Dailey and UND built up a double-digit lead after one period. That lead grew to as many as 17 where it sat at the break. The final field goal of that first half was Freije burying a shot before the horn sounded and North Dakota confidently went into the locker room owning a 39-22 edge on the scoreboard.
North Dakota has been in the position with a big lead at the break and the opponent has seized control in the third over the past few contests. Not this time. After Montana State (8-7, 2-2) scored a quick seven points to start the half, UND head coach Travis Brewster called a timeout to recollect. Freije scored on the next possession, then Klabo added a jumper as the one-two punch for North Dakota was in full effect. The Bobcats whittled the lead down to single digits on several different occasions, but on each occurance, UND answered quickly. MSU's last-gassed effort with 30 seconds left got it to a half-dozen but Freije made a pair of free throws and Melissa Dailey later added two more to seal it for UND's fourth win over MSU in 10 Big Sky Conference contests.
Three players were in double figures for UND with Morton adding 15 points to Klabo and Freije's effort. Hannah Caudill led all scorers with 24 for the Bobcats.
North Dakota heads to Idaho State Thursday for a meeting with the Bengals. Tip time is slated for 8:00 p.m. Central.
Notes: Klabo's 22 points marked her 12th career 20-point game and eighth already this season ... Freije had 21, her third game of 20-plus in the last four ... UND went 4-for-6 from three in the opening half and finished the game 4-for-8 ... Faith Dooley made her first collegiate field goal and added a career-high five rebounds in the win ... North Dakota out-rebounded Montana State, 46-30 .. UND had 16 assists and 16 turnovers as a team ... Klabo went 8-for-9 from the free throw line, exactly matching Montana State's total as a team .. Saturday's win was North Dakota's 499th all-time at home in its 44 years.