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Utah Valley takes overtime win over UND in men's basketball

UND's Tray Buchanan takes it to the hoop as Utah Valley's Ben Nakwaasah defends in the second half of their game Saturday at the Betty Engelstad by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 2
UND's Geno Crandall shoots the ball as Utah Valley's Jake Toolson defends in the second half Saturday at the Betty Engelstad by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

The shots didn't fall for UND on Saturday against Utah Valley. Everything else, however, was in place for the Fighting Hawks—good defense, rebounding and effort.

Until the shots do fall, though, UND may find itself in some tough games—like the one against Utah Valley, an up-and-coming mid-major program that prides itself on playing any team, any place, any time.

Utah Valley's toughness—and 7-foot Akolda Manyang's play down the stretch—carried the Wolverines to an 83-75 overtime win over UND before 1,669 fans at The Betty. UND dropped to 3-3, while the Wolverines, who already have played No. 1 Duke and No. 8 Kentucky, improved to 4-2.

"I really liked our effort," said UND Brian Jones. "I can't fault that. Our guys did a great job on the scout. And when you have that effort and focus, good things will happen for this group. But I'm disappointed because I think we gave that game away. A veteran team probably wouldn't have made those mistakes down the stretch."

UND had a chance to close it out in regulation but couldn't convert on three possessions after the Hawks went up 67-65 on a Geno Crandall jumper with 1:44 to play. Connor Toolson's two free throws with 19 seconds to play tied the game at 67.

UND's Cortez Seales had the chance for the game-winner but his floater in the lane at the buzzer was partially blocked by Manyang. And Manyang dominated the extra session, scoring nine of his game-high 24 points. He also finished with eight rebounds and six blocked shots.

"We wanted to get something at the rim on that last play," said Jones. "But there wasn't enough time for Tez to drop it off to Conner (Avants) so he could lay it in."

But UND's poor perimeter shooting was concerning for the Hawks, who shot 30-of-85 from the field, including a 6-for-30 showing beyond the arc.

UND had a chance to gain control early as UVU struggled offensively. But UND was 4-for-20 in the opening 11 minutes, allowing the Wolverines to gain a 20-10 lead.

UND righted its game late in the first half and trailed 38-34 at the break. In the second half, each team had mini-spurts, which led to the frantic final minutes in regulation.

Marlon Stewart led UND with 24 points, while Crandall added 15, Avants 12 and Dale Jones 11.

Crandall said the loss was disappointing, despite the Hawks' effort against a team that lost by 10 on the road at Kentucky.

"I'm not into moral victories," said Crandall. "But there is a lot we can learn from. In late-game situations, we have to execute better and get better looks."

Crandall said he's not overly concerned about UND's lack of perimeter shooting.

"The shots will fall," he said. "We have to continue to work at it and continue to trust that the looks we're getting are good shots."

Despite giving up considerable size inside, UND and UVU ended in a 49-49 deadlock on the boards.

But Manyang made a difference inside as he altered a number of UND shots.

"It was difficult with him in there," said Crandall, who finished with a double-double (10 rebounds). "We were able to get past their guards pretty easily, but when you have a 7-footer in there with a 7-6 wingspan, jumping and everything, it makes it rough."

UND and Utah Valley are no strangers, having played a number of times as members of the now-defunct Great West Conference.

But the game was important to Utah Valley coach Mark Pope, who wants to schedule tough teams—home or away.

"We're taking a different approach to our season," said Pope, who played in the NBA for seven seasons. "We want to play championship teams (like UND) because championship teams are made different than everyone else. It's not that they make every shot; it's just that they're tougher.

"North Dakota enjoyed a great season last year and for my guys to come up here and play against this team, as tough as they are, is really important to our program and how we're trying to grow."

Pope said it was a high-intensity college basketball game for November.

"Things went sideways for us a few times but my guys hung in there. They just gutted it out; same as North Dakota.

"You didn't wind up with a beautiful game but you had two teams that were freaking tough."

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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