Hawks stage late rally to upend Western Illinois 83-81 in Summit League men's basketball

UND trailed by 18 points with 12 minutes to go before making its comeback

UND's Filip Rebraca works the ball inside as Western Illinois' Tamell Pearson defends Friday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

After an improbable UND 83-81 men’s basketball win over Western Illinois on Friday night, Fighting Hawks coach Paul Sather tried hard not to diminish what his players had just accomplished.

“I don’t want to be the fun hater and take the fun away from this win, but let’s be a better team for 40 minutes,” said Sather. “I love how we finished. I love the belief our guys had and how they responded.”

UND improved to 4-5 in the Summit League and 5-13 overall while Western Illinois -- perhaps the most physical team in the league -- dropped to 0-7 and 2-11.

UND trailed by 19 points late in the first half and was down 60-42 with 12:32 to go as WIU grad transfer Will Carius torched the Hawks. His sixth-straight 3-pointer gave the Leathernecks that 18-point advantage and it appeared the night was over for UND.


But UND began its surge in the final six minutes, led by Filip Rebraca (25 points, 14 rebounds) and Bentiu Panoam (14 points).

It wasn’t the first time Panoam has served as a catalyst.

“Bentiu is a spark and early on I was disappointed in him because I didn’t think that spark and aggressiveness was there,” said Sather. “But it got there again and that’s who he is. He’s a guy who was hardly playing and when his opportunity came he struck it. And I never heard him complain about anything ever.”

Western Illinois led for 36 minutes before Caleb Nero’s 3-pointer with 3:37 to go gave the Hawks a 74-73 lead. That was part of UND’s decisive 15-0 run down the stretch.

The lead changed hands five more times before Rebraca’s two free throws with 17.8 seconds left gave the Hawks an 82-81 advantage. A Nero free throw with 3.5 seconds to go closed out the scoring as the Leathernecks turned the ball over on a long in-bounds pass in the final three seconds.

“We came out really flat,” said Nero. “I don’t think we were playing that bad; we just didn’t have the energy. When we hit that switch, we had the energy.”

UND knew it would be in for a physical matchup. And the fact that the Leathernecks had yet to win in the Summit may have led to a bit of overconfidence. “They’re the No. 4 posting team in the country,” said Sather. “They played physical and it was great we had enough left in the tank in the final six minutes that we could make that run.”

Western’s Carius, a Division III grad transfer from Monmouth, almost stole the show with his shooting.


“He’s been a pretty special kid and has a pretty incredible story,” said Western Illinois assistant coach Chad Boudreau. “When he gets it going, he’s hard to deal with.”

UND will go for the weekend sweep and a .500 mark in the Summit on Saturday night.

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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