Former UND guard De'Sean Allen-Eikens started rivalry week -- the Fighting Hawks host North Dakota State for a two-game series Friday and Saturday -- by announcing his intent to transfer elsewhere.
For second-year UND coach Paul Sather, the decision was disappointing but ultimately brought finality to a position the program was juggling all season due to a lingering ankle injury to Allen-Eikens.
"Any time there's things like that it's just disappointing," Sather said. "But you know, at the end, that's what De'Sean felt was best for him and you want to wish him well and wish him the best with that but for our team it's got to be moving forward."
Allen-Eikens injured his ankle in the first practice after UND's season opener against Miami. He scored 13 points two weekends ago at home against Kansas City but had struggled to feel comfortable on the injury in other limited opportunities.
The Williston, N.D. native appeared in all 33 games last season, making 30 starts. He finished third on the team with 13.8 points per game. He reached double figures scoring in 29 of 33 games, ranking second among freshman in the Summit League for scoring.
"We played a lot of this season without De'Sean because of his injury, so I mean I think our guys have confidence that we've shown we can go out there and put games together and put really good halves together. I think it does allow us some finality to something. Now, we can really move forward and that's for De'Sean, as well. I think that's the two sides to that. No question for us, it's an opportunity to have some other guys maybe really feel like, hey, we're moving forward and let's get ready for the Bison."
In a unique opportunity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UND and NDSU already played once this season in non-conference play.
The Bison erased a double-digit, second-half deficit to clip the Fighting Hawks 53-52 at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
UND led by 10 with 7:45 to play but didn't score again for more than seven minutes. NDSU guard Sam Griesel hit a free throw with 5.2 seconds left to pull out the victory.
UND, 2-2 in league play, split last weekend at Oral Roberts. The Hawks played without point guard Tyree Ihenacho, who leads the team in assists and steals and is third in scoring.
Ihenacho was out day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
"It was good to see him on the floor moving pretty well yesterday," Sather said. "That's what we're working towards ... getting him in a live setting. I don't have an update, knowing what it looks like even for today's practice. I wish I was saying that just to say it, but I'm saying it because I don't know. But we're optimistic with it."
The Bison are 4-0 in league play after sweeping at Western Illinois and at home against Omaha. The Bison average four players in double figures, led by Rocky Kreuser at 14.0 points per game.