Hawks hope they're turning the corner with Summit tournament approaching

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The Fighting Hawks' Matt Norman (2) drives to the hoop past Oral Roberts forward Patrick Mwamba during a matinee men's basketball game at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks on Saturday, January 21, 2023.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS – UND's Elijah Brooks suffered an ankle injury early in the season. The true freshman and former Kansas Mr. Basketball winner didn’t get off the start he wanted in his first year of Division I basketball.

His slow start, in some ways, has mirrored UND’s season.

Brooks, however, has seen more court time of late and has produced, scoring 8 points last week in 19 minutes as UND stunned South Dakota 86-72 in Vermillion – a win that left some Summit observers wondering if the Hawks will emerge as a tough out in the upcoming Summit League tournament.

The Hawks improved to 2-10 in the league and 8-17 overall as they prepare for home games Thursday against Denver and Saturday against Omaha.

A boost from Brooks off the bench could give UND more punch in the final three weeks of the season.


Brooks was in the UND starting lineup when the season started and has seven starts to his credit. The early season ankle injury, however, set the 6-foot-1 guard back in his development.

“When I came back, I felt a little slow,” said Brooks. “I was worried about my ankle, of course. But as far as the mind aspect of the game it was pretty good.”

He said his game is coming along, despite the early setback.

“It’s starting to shape up really well,” said Brooks. “I’m starting to gain more confidence in my shot. So as long as I keep pushing, I’ll be fine.”

Brooks is shooting 64 percent this season and his length and athleticism has made him a shot blocking threat on the perimeter.

While Brooks may become another scoring threat for the Hawks, junior Matt Norman is a scoring threat.

In his past nine games, Norman has shot 48.6 percent on 3-point attempts (34-for-70 and is averaging 17 points per game.

“I think along with Matt’s shooting, our player movement has been so much better,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “We’ve kind of changed some things offensively and I think it’s helping Matt and some other guys.


“We’re getting better looks and we’re a bit harder to guard. Matt and Tsotne (Tsartsidze) are the two guys really leading that charge.”

There are three weeks left in the Summit League regular season.

UND’s win last week at South Dakota, where the Hawks had struggled for years, could be a sign the Hawks are starting to turn the corner.

This week, UND plays Denver (4-9, 13-13) and Omaha (3-10, 7-18), two other teams in the second division of the Summit standings.

Sather said Omaha may mirror UND more than any other Summit team.

“Omaha is a team that probably has a similar feeling that we have in the sense they’ve been right there in a lot of games,” said Sather. “Their record probably doesn’t reflect how good of a team they are. They play hard and they play together.

“Both teams will present some challenges.”

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
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