Hawks trending in the right direction
UND turns in impressive 86-63 win over Denver
GRAND FORKS – UND believes it’s never too late to turn the season around.
The Hawks showed that Thursday night with a well-played, dominating 86-63 win over Denver in a Summit League men’s basketball game before 1,448 fans at The Betty.
UND improved to 3-10 in the league and 9-17 overall. That record won’t raise a lot of eyebrows but UND’s play during its past two games could have opponents thinking differently about the Hawks with the Summit postseason tournament approaching.
“Our guys are maturing and they’re really understanding their roles better,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “Better late than never on this stuff, right?
“We’re in a league where it honestly doesn’t matter where the heck you finish, You just want to be playing your best basketball late in the year. And with five games to play, I feel like we’re starting to feel that.”
Last week, UND took an impressive 86-72 road win at South Dakota. Five days later, UND took another double-digit win and played near flawless basketball for a good chunk of the game.
The past two solid defensive performances were complemented by balanced scoring, highlight-reel fastbreaks and dunks, and a team playing with aggressiveness and confidence.
UND has three of its final five regular-season Summit League games at home. If the Hawks take care of business at home, they could present a challenge in the first round of the Summit tournament.
“We definitely have a lot of young guys here and guys who haven’t played at the collegiate level a lot,” said fifth-year player Mitchell Sueker. “I think over the course of the season, guys are growing up and really figuring out what the conference season takes. Everyone is making those steps and strides to close out games.”
UND never trailed. The Hawks placed four players in double figures, led by B.J. Omot’s 16 points. They shot 56 percent and outrebounded a taller Denver team 37-24. And the Hawks’ bench kicked in 21 points.
Only once did Denver, led by Tevin Smith’s 17 points, make things a little interesting. The Pioneers (4-10, 13-14) went on a 5-0 run to close to within 52-42. The Hawks responded with a 10-0 run over the next two-plus minutes to end any doubt. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Matt Norman highlighted the run.
A big plus for UND was the scoring of point guard Jalun Trent, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-9 shooting. His ability to drive and finish at the rim made it easier for other UND players to get good looks from the perimeter.
“I’m just trying to come out each night with that mentality,” said Trent. “I just want to play hard and show what I can do.”
UND’s defense has been considerably better the past two games, allowing 72 and 63 points. In UND’s four previous losses, the Hawks gave up 84, 92, 91 and 96 points.
“It feels like we got back to the beginning of the season when we were playing better defense,” said Trent.
And UND’s defense the past two games has led to an energetic and productive offense.
“Offensively, we’re making a lot of the right plays,” said Sather. “Our guys are playing with some purpose and some intention. We’re getting the ball where it needs to go and then the guys are making good decisions.”