The Paul Sather Era officially began for UND on Thursday night with an expected 86-61 men’s basketball win over Crown College at The Betty.
The expectations for the season, however, won’t be known for a while -- even after Tuesday’s game at national power Gonzaga.
For an opener, though, UND saw a lot more positives than negatives.
Redshirt freshman De’Sean Allen-Eikens led UND with 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The athleticism of the 6-foot-6 guard from Williston, N.D., was on display and he didn’t show many lingering effects of a broken leg he suffered during the offseason.
Filip Rebraca added 20 points inside and grabbed 11 rebounds while returning point guard Marlon Stewart had a smooth game, finishing with 12 points.
The one negative was 19 turnovers.
“We got a little careless offensively with the ball, guys trying to make plays,” said Sather. “This group is pretty aggressive minded. We have some guys who can make plays. Sometimes, we were forcing those plays instead of letting them develop.
“And that’s something that’s been a trait in practice and they’re running a little bit for the turnovers. I loved our effort in a lot of ways but we just have to value the basketball better than we did.”
Allen-Eikens has been with the UND program since January. Playing his first game at UND was special, he said.
“That’s all I wanted to do last year,” he said. “And I worked hard those months I redshirted.”
Outside of the 19 turnovers, UND’s stat line was solid. The Hawks shot 33 of 66 from the field, 10 of 22 on three-pointers and outrebounded Crown 54-29.
Those statistics weren’t surprising against the Division III opponent from the Twins Cities, who was led by Timothy Wendel and Gunnar Ledin as each finished with 14 points.
After 30 preseason practices, however, Rebraca said it was satisfying playing against someone else.
“We were very eager to play someone else,” said Rebraca. “But now we have to focus on the next game, which is very big. We’re just trying to be better. As coach explains, we have to get better day in and day out.
“If we go in with a mindset of taking care of all the things we have to take care of, we’ll have a good outcome.”
UND will take a considerably younger team to Gonzaga next week, compared to the one that nearly derailed the Zags two years ago as the Hawks lost in overtime. UND led by 12 points in the second half before falling 89-83.
“Moving forward, we have to understand that it’s more about us than our opponent,” said Sather. “But we also have to recognize who our opponent is and understand that taking care of the basketball is going to be an important thing.”