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Omaha hits late 3-pointer, stings UND 92-91 in men's basketball

UND senior forward Conner Avants makes a layup past Omaha's Matt Pile in the first half of Thursday's basketball game at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
UND men's head basketball coach Brian Jones yells to his players in the final seconds of the first half of Thursday's home game against Omaha. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
With Omaha Maverick Matt Pile (40) defending, UND's Aanen Moody goes for a layup in the first half of Thursday's home basketball game. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
Fighting Hawks guard Cortez Seales watches as a teammate takes a free throw during Thursday's home basketball game against Omaha. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

For years, Omaha and UND were members of the old North Central Conference—Division II programs that had a number of competitive games against each other.

The teams went their separate ways roughly 10 years ago, but are now back at it as Summit League members.

On Thursday night, it was another competitive, well-played, entertaining game between the old rivals, with Omaha sneaking away with a 92-91 win before 1,525 fans at The Betty.

Mitch Hahn's deep 3-pointer from the wing with 7.5 seconds to go gave the Mavericks a 92-90 lead. UND's Conner Avants was fouled on a missed shot with 0.6 seconds left but made only one of two from the line, allowing Omaha to escape after leading for only 1 minute, 46 seconds.

"I don't think we were at our best tonight and that's a credit to UND," said Omaha coach Darrin Hansen, now in his 14th season. "I thought they had a really good game plan. We're fortunate to get out of here."

UND shot well (50 percent), defended well much of the night and held off repeated mini-runs by the Mavericks. But the Mavs' depth up front was a difference maker as Hahn, a 6-foot-8 senior, and 6-8 Matt Pile combined for 37 points and 27 rebounds. And the Mavs also received 28 points from backcourt players Zach Jackson (15) and JT Gibson (13).

"I wanted to evaluate our guys on two things; did we compete and did we value the basketball?" said UND coach Brian Jones. "We grew in both of those areas.

"But this one hurts; we played well and competed. But at the end of the day, you have to be able to finish—make plays down the stretch or make foul shots. There were about five or six possessions in the game where we didn't do our job. They ended up in poor possessions for us and something good for them."

UND led by 14 points with 12 minutes left in the first half and maintained a relatively safe lead until the closing minutes. Omaha gained its first lead at 85-84 on a Jackson basket with 3:35 to go. The lead changed hands five more times before Hahn drilled his 3-pointer, his 24th of the season.

UND raced down the floor for the potential game-winner, but Cortez Seales' shot was off the mark. Avants, who led UND with 24 points, was fouled on the rebound attempt and went to the line for two shots with 0.6 seconds left. He made the first but his second missed, and no one was able to control the rebound.

"We knew they were a good offensive team and we knew we could score," said Avants. "But it came down to stops. They hit that three and we didn't finish. It's a game of the last few possessions and I think that's something we need to improve on moving forward. A lot of games are going to come down to the final few possessions."

Aanen Moody added 18 points for UND while Seales and Kienan Walter added 16 and 14, respectively.

Omaha now has won six of its past seven games, including wins at Idaho and Rice plus a victory against UC Santa Barbara. Omaha's last trip to UND came in 2015, ending in a similar fashion. Omaha won 80-78 as a last second 3-pointer by UND was off the mark.

UND continues Summit League play Saturday afternoon at home against Western Illinois.

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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