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Geno Crandall’s late shot helps UND hold off Southern Utah

The UND men’s basketball team didn’t have the cleanest finish Thursday night against Southern Utah, but the Fighting Hawks did have Geno Crandall.

The UND junior guard hit a contested free-throw line jumper with 18 seconds left to key a 61-57 victory over the Thunderbirds in Big Sky Conference play in front of 1,456 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

Crandall, who finished with a game-high 17 points, hit from the right elbow and then crumpled to the floor with SUU’s Dre Marin in his face.His basket gave the Hawks a 58-57 lead.

“We drew something up to use me as a decoy, honestly,” Crandall said. “They guarded it well, so I went to the top. I want the ball in those situations. Coach (Brian) Jones has the ultimate confidence in me and that makes you feel better as a player when your coach trusts the decisions you make. I felt a body on me and tried to elevate. I thought he climbed under me and thought it should have been and-one, but we got the win and that’s all that matters.”

UND ended a three-game losing streak, improving to 9-17 overall and 4-10 in the Big Sky. SUU dropped to 10-14 and 4-9 in league play.

“I thought our guys stayed together,” Jones said. “I think there’s growth there. I really liked the way we came out in the second half. We challenged our guys at half and they responded with more pace and energy.”

After Crandall’s clutch shot, there was plenty of hand-wringing left, though.

SUU countered with Jadon Cohee, who had a team-high 14 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the 3-point line. Cohee’s shot to retake the lead with about 10 seconds to go was partially blocked by Cortez Seales and ended up in the hands of UND’s Dale Jones, who dished to teammate Marlon Stewart, who was fouled with 6.6 seconds to go.

Stewart, however, missed the front end of the 1-and-1 foul shot.

SUU raced upcourt and called a timeout with 2.4 seconds left. With SUU trying to inbound the ball, Stewart was called for a reach-in foul to give Jamal Aytes a 1-and-1 look from the foul line.

But Aytes, too, missed the front end.

Stewart then hit two foul shots to give UND a 60-57 lead and SUU’s rebuttal was a long inbounds attempt that went untouched by everyone, sealing the Hawks’ win.

Crandall was joined in double figures by Kienan Walter, who came off the bench to provide one-point shy of his career high with 15 points (3-for-6 on 3s).

Two Walter treys and a Billy Brown triple in a two-minute span of the second half keyed the Fighting Hawks’ second-half resurgence.

“It was a lot of fun,” Walter said. “That’s why you play -- to step up for your team in moments like that.”

SUU landed in three in double figures with 11 apiece from Dwayne Morgan and Aytes, to go along with Cohee’s 14.

The Thunderbirds, however, were done in by 18 turnovers.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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