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MEN'S BASKETBALL: UND hopes to gain momentum in upcoming home games

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MEN'S BASKETBALL: UND hopes to gain momentum in upcoming home games
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Long locker-room chats after a loss aren't rare. Sometimes, they can be beneficial. Sometimes, they're not.

After UND lost at Montana a week ago, North Dakota dropped to 2-3 in the Big Sky Conference as a road game loomed two days later at Montana State.

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The lengthy chat in Missoula seemed to help. At the least, it can be considered part of the reason why UND rebounded for an important win last Saturday at Montana State.

"Our guys sat in the locker room at Montana and vented again," said UND coach Brian Jones. "It was good to see action instead of words. The action was there Friday in practice and in the game on Saturday. We played well in spurts (at Montana State) and hung on in the end."

UND hopes its 72-69 road win at Montana State can jump-start a program that has been up and down most of the season. North Dakota hosts Sacramento State tonight at The Betty and surprising Northern Arizona on Saturday in two Big Sky games that could keep UND in the upper half of the league standings as the halfway point of the season approaches.

"The hope is our guys understand what it took and how hard it was to get the job done," Jones said of UND's first road win of the season. "Everyone has to contribute, whether they're playing or not."

Attention grabber

UND shook up its starting lineup during the back end of the Montana trip.

Against Montana State, UND started Troy Huff -- the league's leading scorer (20.7 ppg) -- along with Josh Schuler, Ryan Salmonson, Quinton Hooker and Aaron Anderson.

Schuler, Salmonson and Hooker have not been regular starters this season.

The switch came after all five performed well in the second half at Montana.

"Those five guys had positive (plus-minus) minutes in the second half against Montana," said Jones. "It's not about who is going to play at the end but who will give us a good start."

One of UND's concerns this season has been sluggish starts.

Another positive was UND's bench, which outscored the Bobcats 29-12.

"Our bench was alive and excited," said Jones. "We haven't had that in a while."

Sacramento State is 2-4 in the Big Sky and 6-9 overall. The Hornets, however, have had to play four games on the road. Sacramento, however, is one of the better defensive teams in the league, allowing a third-best 67.1 points.

Northern Arizona, meanwhile, may be the second-biggest surprise in the Big Sky this season behind Northern Colorado.

The Lumberjacks are 5-1 in the league and 8-9 overall. They've won four in a row.

For UND, the mission this week is to hold serve on its home court.

"I'm excited about the togetherness I saw on Saturday," said Jones.

Nelson reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1268 or send e-mail to wnelson@gfherald.com.

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Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
(701) 780-1268
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