VIDEO: UND headed to Big Dance after OT win in Big Sky title game
RENO, Nev. -- UND is going Dancing.
The win qualifies UND for its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the showcase for college basketball.
“This team showed its true colors tonight,” said UND coach Brian Jones. “It’s the biggest win in program history. The way we won this game is special; the way they kept fighting and how resilient we’ve been all year has been special.”
UND, the regular-season champion, trailed by 11 points with less than 8 minutes to play and trailed by six with a minute to go in regulation.
But the Hawks rallied, led by tournament MVP Quinton Hooker, who scored 28 points to lead the way.
“We talked all season about finishing the race,” said Hooker. “We’ve been resilient all year and that’s how we were tonight. This team stuck together; I couldn’t be more proud of my guys. This is what UND deserves.”
Weber did have UND on the ropes with eight minutes to play. But UND players said they weren’t rattled.
“We’ve had close games; we’ve been down in games this season,” said UND sophomore guard Geno Crandall. “When we were down 10 we were in the huddle and we looked at each other and said, ‘We’re going to win this game. We just have to figure out how.’”
UND began to figure it out the next few minutes, getting defensive stops and finding a better offensive rhythm.
UND trailed by four points with 1:05 to play but managed to tie the game at 81-81 with seven seconds to play on a driving basket by Crandall. Cortez Seales then came up with a block on a last-second Weber attempt for the win.
Hooker opened the overtime with a basket before Weber’s Jerrick Harding replied with a three-pointer. The lead changed hands two more times before Hooker hit two free throws for an 87-86 lead. The Hawks nursed that advantage the rest of the way.
UND will take a 22-9 record into the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show is scheduled for today and UND will find out its seed and where it will play next week.
It was a back-and-forth game, with each team making runs at various times.
The lead changed hands 14 times and there were eight ties.
As has been the case in the tournament, UND had balanced scoring, placing six players in double figures.
In addition to Hooker, Crandall added 17, Avants 13, Seales 12, Drick Bernstine 11 and Corey Baldwin 10.
The Hawks shot 48 percent, compared to Weber’s 44 percent.
The Wildcats were led by Jeremy Senglin, who finished with 26 points.
UND bolted out to fast starts in both its Big Sky wins over Portland State and Idaho.
That didn’t happen against Weber, however.
Behind the outside shooting of Jeremy Senglin, the Wildcats went up 20-10 seven minutes into the game.
UND, however, later responded with a 12-2 run, one that put the Hawks up 39-36 on Hooker’s 3-pointer at the 3:40 mark
A lift off the bench from Seales, who had nine points in the first half, helped give UND a 46-40 lead with under a minute remaining in the first half.
Based on the teams’ history against each other, a close game was expected.
Even though UND has had a relatively short history in the league, the two teams have staged some down-to-the wire games in the Big Sky tournament.
In UND’s first season, Weber beat UND 76-74 in the league semifinal round. A year later, UND reached the title game. But homestanding Weber beat the Hawks 88-67.
Last season, Senglin led Weber to an 83-78 win over the Hawks in the semifinal round. Senglin’s deep, step-back 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation forced overtime.
But UND returned the favor this season, downing Weber in overtime, earning their first trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“They’ve knocked us out of this tournament every year we’ve been in the league,” said Jones. “It was the year to exercise our demons. Our guys stayed the course.”