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Sioux take first NCC win

UND picked up its first North Central Conference win in the Brian Jones era Saturday, rallying past Nebraska-Omaha 75-73 before 3,052 Betty Engelstad Sioux fans.

UND picked up its first North Central Conference win in the Brian Jones era Saturday, rallying past Nebraska-Omaha 75-73 before 3,052 Betty Engelstad Sioux fans.

The win wasn't pretty, just gritty. And it didn't lack for controversy.

Mike Gutter's go-ahead basket with 1:06 to play gave UND a 73-72 lead. The Sioux, however, didn't make it easy in the final 17 seconds, missing three free throws. Not until Josh Vanderslice's running jump shot from 15 feet was off the mark at the buzzer could the Sioux finally celebrate their first league win of the season.

"It's a relief for the guys," Jones, UND's first-year head coach, said. "They had a great week of practice. They worked really hard for this."

UND improved to 1-3 in the NCC and 9-10 overall. The physical win also broke a five-game losing streak.

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UND's grit and athleticism showed in the final five minutes.

Michael Jenkins' basket with 4:57 to go gave the Mavericks a 71-65 lead. But the Sioux got the defensive stops that had been lacking in previous NCC late-game situations and picked up key points from Mark Kruse and Emmanuel Little as they closed the game on a 10-2 run.

Little, in another athletic performance, had 22 points and 17 rebounds. Kruse added 15 points, including six in the final 4½minutes. And Josh Doyle's 3-point shooting in the first half kept the Sioux close. Doyle finished with 14 points, making 4 of 6 three-pointers.

Omaha dropped to 1-2 in the league and 10-7 overall. The loss frustrated second-year coach Derrin Hansen. Not only did Omaha fail to protect its late lead, the Mavericks also had to play the final 13 minutes without Keith Price, an athletic forward who averages 11 points.

Price took an elbow to the face from Gutter as the Sioux center was clearing a rebound. Price fell to the floor as he was nearly knocked unconscious. A few seconds after the hit, the officials stopped play.

Price required seven stitches to the face and suffered a concussion, Hansen said.

"I thought not having Keith Price for the last 13 minutes was important because he's one guy who can keep their athletic players off of the boards," Hansen said. "And it wasn't by our doing. Seven stitches, one concussion, zero call . . . you can print that. They (refs) said they didn't see anything."

Jones, who was on the Omaha coaching staff with Hansen for a brief time in 1998, said he understood why Hansen was angry.

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"I can see why he's upset," Jones said. "It was a game within their grasp. Mike didn't hit (Price) intentionally with his elbow."

For the first time in four NCC games, UND had the upper hand in the final minutes. Two of its three league losses were by a combined three points.

"NCC games will always come down to the last few possessions," Jones said.

Little, whose athleticism results in a number of putbacks and layups, was 3 of 8 in the first half. However, he wasn't playing the game that earned him weekly NCC honors two weeks ago.

"I was taking too many jump shots in the first half," Little said. "Coach got on me at halftime. I had to let the game come to me."

The game came to Little and the Sioux, who shot 62 percent in the second half.

Vanderslice's career-high 19 points led Omaha. Jenkins added 13, while Denny Johnston finished with 12.

"They made a couple of plays near the end of the game and we didn't," Hansen said. "Give them credit."

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