Milwaukee, with a projected first-round NBA Draft pick, upends UND in Fighting Hawks' season opener
Patrick Baldwin Jr. leads Milwaukee with 21 points and 10 rebounds as the Hawks fall 75-60
UND opened its men’s basketball season on Tuesday night against a team with a projected first-round NBA Draft pick next year.
Milwaukee 6-foot-9 freshman Patrick Baldwin Jr. showed why he’s drawn so much praise as he led the Panthers to a 75-60 win over UND before 1,628 fans at The Betty. Baldwin Jr. quietly finished with a double-double -- 21 points, 10 rebounds -- as the Panthers led throughout but could not shake UND until the closing minutes.
For Baldwin Jr., it was his first game in a long time as he missed most of his high school senior season with an ankle injury. And the slender, smooth guard/forward also has had to deal with a lot of hype in the preseason as well.
“Just getting out here and breaking a sweat for the first time in this organization is something I take close to my heart,” said Baldwin Jr., who rejected recruiting offers from the likes of Duke and Kentucky to play for his father and head coach, Patrick. “If you love basketball, I don’t think the hype should be hard to deal with. You’ve just got to come out and play the game you love and live with the results.”
The appearance of a projected NBA player certainly added to the hype for UND’s season opener. But there were other stories that emerged -- notably UND’s ability to hang with a team picked fourth in the preseason Horizon League poll despite shooting only 29 percent.
UND led only once at 3-2, but couldn’t mount any serious runs against the Panthers, who had the considerable edge in length -- making it difficult for the Hawks to finish at the rim.
UND trailed 32-19 late in the first half but managed a mini-spurt that left the Hawks trailing 36-28 at the break.
Two Caleb Nero free throws and a Paul Bruns’ 3-pointer left UND trailing 42-37 with 15:11 to go, but back-to-back three-pointers from Donovan Newby and Josh Thomas pushed the Panthers’ lead up to 48-37. Baldwin assisted on the Thomas three-pointer.
And Baldwin scored back-to-back baskets a few minutes later to put the Panthers up 55-41.
“We defended and rebounded pretty well,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “We didn’t give them a lot of extra shot opportunities. And we didn’t turn it over much. Their length and physicality bothered us. Usually, when that happens you turn it over a lot. Tonight, we missed some Zone 1 finishes around the rim and we missed some good looks from three.
“Those are things, though, that I think we’re going to get better at because I believe we have guys who can shoot it well. But tonight, those shots didn’t fall.”
Bruns, a 6-4 freshman from Jefferson, S.D., led UND with 13 points -- going 5-for-10 from the field. Ethan Igbanugo added 11 points.
UND outrebounded Milwaukee 46-38. “We got a lot of offensive rebounds, which helped us,” said Bruns of UND’s 14 offensive boards that led to 19 second-chance points. “We got some stops, too, but they made some tough shots.”
Milwaukee placed four players in double figures. One of the four -- Vin Baker Jr., -- added 11. He is the son of former NBA player Vin Baker. The Panthers shot 43 percent and committed only eight turnovers.
All in all, it wasn’t a disastrous season opener for UND, which had a sizable roster turnover in the offseason.
“We definitely have some work to do,” said Igbanugo. “There were some good things and some bad things but it’s the first game. I see a lot of potential.”