MEN'S BASKETBALL: Huff's last-second basket lifts UND
Troy Huff is UND’s best player and one of the top players in the Big Sky Conference.
“He finds ways to make plays out of nothing,” said UND coach Brian Jones.
Huff again found a way Saturday at The Betty, where he sank a buzzer-beating game-winning shot to lift UND to a 69-67 win over Eastern Washington before 1,780 fans.
The win all but sealed UND’s berth in the upcoming seven-team Big Sky postseason tournament. UND improved to 11-7 in the league and 14-14 overall. Like last season, UND again is making a surge toward the end of the season.
Huff is leading that surge.
Eastern Washington’s Tyler Harvey sank a long 3-pointer to tie the game with 15 seconds to play. UND called timeout and designed a play for Huff, one that had him going to the rim with six seconds to go.
“That play was completely busted,” said Huff. “It wasn’t supposed to happen the way it did, but it all worked out.”
Eastern Washington pressured Huff out of the timeout, leaving Aaron Anderson to handle the ball. Anderson found Jamal Webb in the corner and his 3-pointer was off the mark. Huff, crashing from the opposite side, grabbed the rebound in the lane and his one-handed, off-balance shot with two-tenths of a second to play was on the mark.
“It was a good miss,” said Webb.
After he hit the game-winner, Huff did a cartwheel in front of the UND bench, signifying he is one of North Dakota’s better athletes.
“They picked me up fullcourt,” said Huff. “I was just there at the right time. I got the rebound, looked at the rim and threw it up.”
It was Senior Day for UND as the program honored seven seniors, including Huff.
Two years ago at Senior Day, Pat Mitchell put in a game-winner from nearly the identical spot as North Dakota beat Utah Valley at the buzzer.
“That was crazy,” said Webb. “Same thing two years ago. Senior Day. Pat puts up a floater, Déjà vu.”
The last-second heroics made up for UND’s offensive struggles.
UND never did get into an offensive rhythm and trailed the entire first half as Eastern Washington, led by Venky Jois’ 22 points, led 28-27 at the break.
“We couldn’t make jump shots,” said Jones. “A lot of that had to do with Eastern because they packed it in inside early. But in the second half, we got some defensive stops and that allowed us to get a lead.”
Also, Huff spent much of the first half on the bench with foul trouble. He picked up his third foul early in the second half and headed to the bench again.
However, the 6-foot-5 senior scored four-straight points to start the second half, giving UND its first lead at 31-28.
Jaron Nash, who led UND with 21 points, took over later in the half and his basket at 15:51 gave North Dakota a 41-32 lead.
But the Eagles hung around behind their inside game from Jois and 6-10 Martin Seiferth (13 points). Harvey’s basket at 9:03 gave Eastern a 50-49 lead but Webb responded with a 3-pointer to put UND up by 2.
UND led 66-59 with 2:16 to go but Eastern rallied again, tying the game on Harvey’s long trey.
That set up a wild final 15 seconds, capped by Huff’s game-winner.
The game was televised by Midco Sports Network (Channel 27, GF). But at 4 p.m., the station switched to the South Dakota-South Dakota State game. A few minutes before the switch, Midco did alert viewers that it would move the UND game to Channel 323 but some viewers did miss the game-winner.
Regardless, the win kept UND’s late-season surge alive.
“It’s March,” added Jones. “Every game is going to be close.”