Cortez Seales' late 3-pointer lifts UND to a victory over Western Illinois
The UND men's basketball team faced a familiar situation Saturday afternoon against Western Illinois.
Like Thursday night's one-point loss to Nebraska Omaha, the Fighting Hawks were in a down-to-the-wire Summit League battle.
Unlike Thursday, however, this time UND's shooters came through in the clutch.
Cortez Seales' 3-pointer from the left corner with 13.5 seconds left preserved a 71-65 win over Western Illinois in front of 1,898 at Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
"That's what seniors do," said UND freshman Filip Rebraca, who added 10 points and seven rebounds off the bench. "He's a cold-blooded man. That was big time."
Leading by three with 33 seconds to go, UND called a timeout and started with the ball in the hands of guard Marlon Stewart at the top of the key.
When defenders collapsed on a driving Stewart, he passed over to the left wing for Kienan Walter, who quickly found Seales in the corner.
"The play originally wasn't for me," said Seales, a 21.9 percent 3-point shooter this season. "But a lot of teams leave me open, especially in those situations. Marlon did a nice job getting off it, Kienan made the extra pass, and it was just great looks."
Seales finished with seven points. Conner Avants and Stewart each finished with a game-high 21 points.
"That's just our nature and what our team does," Stewart said of the late play by Seales. "I saw the double team and they were late to rotate. Tez was having an off night but he hit the biggest shot of the night."
UND trailed 43-37 at halftime as the Leathernecks shot a blistering 67.9 percent in the first half.
The Hawks also took some time early in the game adjusting to the inside presence of 7-footer Brandon Gilbeck, who ranks second in the country in blocked shots at 4.0 per game.
Gilbeck finished with two blocks but also altered a number of looks early. He was also a force on offense early but finished with 14 points and eight rebounds—cooling off in the second half while he battled foul trouble.
Avants, five inches shorter than Gilbeck at 6-foot-7, sparked UND's second-half comeback and finished 7-for-11 from the field and 7-for-8 from the free-throw line.
"Conner has been doing this for four years so that's nothing new," Seales said. "I just think it's part of his game."
After trailing throughout the first half, the Hawks pulled ahead early in the second half thanks to a spirited stretch of play by Rebraca, who had two hard blocks and a big dunk in a five-minute span to bring The Betty to life.
UND led by as many as 10 with two minutes left but struggles at the foul line set up a tight finish.
Western Illinois, which dropped to 6-12 overall and 1-4 in the Summit, was led by Isaac Johnson (16 points), Kobe Webster (15 points) and Gilbeck (14 points).
After shooting 67.9 percent in the first half, the Leathernecks shot 27.6 percent in the second half.
"That's the way we can guard in the second half," UND coach Brian Jones said. "It was a pivotal win. I was proud of our guys to close this win out."
UND, which improved to 8-10 overall and 2-3 in the Summit, hosts South Dakota State on Wednesday before visiting North Dakota State on Saturday.