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Hawks, Bison set to tip off Summit League game

UND has received strong bench play this season

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UND defenders Paul Bruns and Brian Mathews (34) converge on NDSU's Tyree Eady during the first half of their game Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, in Grand Forks. UND and NDSU meet again Friday night in Grand Forks.
Korrie Wenzel / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – UND men’s basketball coach Paul Sather hasn’t quite set his player rotation yet, even with Summit League play beginning Friday night against North Dakota State at The Betty.

But there is a reason for that.

His bench has been productive all season.

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NDSU forward Rocky Kreuser (34) spins in the lane against the defense of UND's Ethan Igbanugo and Tsotne Tsartsidze (10) during their Summit League basketball game Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022, at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.
Korrie Wenzel / Grand Forks Herald

“Anytime you can close the rotation down to eight or nine guys, that helps,” said Sather. “We’re kind of still searching for that. There are different days and different guys who give you reasons to put them on the floor and vice versa.”

UND ranks No. 1 in the Summit in bench scoring and No. 20 nationally as the Hawks average 31.2 points per game off the bench. Omaha ranks No. 2 in the Summit, averaging 23.5 ppg.

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The bench points are a sign of balance and also an indication that UND’ freshmen are making an impact since a number of them already have seen significant minutes.

Three of UND’s top seven scorers are freshmen – led by 6-foot-9 forward B.J. Omot (14.0 ppg).

“Everyone is scoring like that with limited minutes because we’re playing a lot of guys,” said Sather.

And percentages by the first-year players are solid, another good sign heading into the opener.

“If you look at the percentages and numbers of our younger guys, Elijah Brooks (10.0 ppg) is shooting 72 percent from the field right now. That’s not bad for a freshman. And B.J’’s is our leading scorer and has a 1-to-1 turnover/assist ratio which is pretty good for the position he’s playing. And Treysen Eaglestaff’s shooting percentage (40.4 three-point percentage) is improving and he’s come a long way defensively from where he started.”

But will those numbers – along with the play of UND’s experienced players – be enough to beat the Bison for the first time in four games?

That’s hard to tell, considering NDSU comes in with a 3-11 record, a misleading mark considering the Bison difficult nonconference record and injuries – primarily to leading scorer Grant Nelson, a former Devils Lake standout.

“You’re going to see a team that will continue to get better,” said Sather of the Bison. “Throw the records out. For all of us, it’s who is playing the best basketball in January and February.”

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UND will open with three-straight Summit League home games, Friday against the Bison and next weekend against South Dakota and South Dakota State – arguably the toughest three game-stretch in league play.”

For UND, that’s significant since UND went 6-8 in nonconference play – one of its best showings in recent seasons. And the Hawks largely have played well at home.

“Protect The Betty,” said Sather. “We have some opportunities here. We really need to take pride in our home games and protect The Betty.”

UND is 0-1 in the Summit while NDSU is 0-2.

Both have difficult challenges ahead as both open their rival before meeting the South Dakota schools.

UND has been off for 11 days, but Sather said the break was good for the Hawks.

“We got an extended break and I think that was good for the guys,” said the UND coach. “I’d like to think we have some really good basketball ahead of us.”

NDSU at UND

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When: Friday, 7 p.m.

Where: Betty Engelstad Sioux Center

TV/Radio: MidcoSN, 100.3 FM

Records: UND 0-1 Summit, 6-8 overall; NDSU 0-2, 3-11

Of note: UND has lost its past five Summit games, dating back to last season

Related Topics: NORTH DAKOTA FIGHTING HAWKS
Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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