Oral Roberts University downs North Dakota as Hawks' chances of making Summit tournament dwindle
GRAND FORKS – Before UND’s game against Oral Roberts University, the Fighting Hawks’ chances of qualifying for the upcoming Summit League men’s basketball tournament were hanging by a thread.
That thread may have snapped in the final 12 minutes of the game.
ORU’s experience and physicality dominated down the stretch and led the Golden Eagles to an 87-73 win over UND at The Betty on Saturday – a loss that perhaps ended the Hawks’ chances of qualifying for the eighth and final seed in the Summit tournament next month.
UND dropped to 2-14 in the Summit and 6-23 overall, while ORU moved to 12-4 and 18-9. UND is two wins behind Omaha for the No. 8 seed with two games left to play. Even if UND wins out and Omaha drops its final two games, there is no guarantee the Hawks will have the tiebreaker.
UND closes out the regular season with home games against St. Thomas on Tuesday and North Dakota State next Saturday.
“We just have to get ready for St. Thomas,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “No matter what’s going on, let’s just finish this thing. We competed today. We were connected and we had a little more fire.”
UND’s overall game was considerably better than it was Thursday, when a sluggish start led the Roos to a 15-point win over the Hawks.
There were 12 lead changes in the game. UND’s last lead came at 52-51 when freshman Brian Mathews hit two free throws with 12:38 to go. ORU then took over, holding UND to only three free throws over the next four minutes.
By then, the Max Abmas-led Golden Eagles had built a 64-55 cushion and that lead methodically grew down the stretch.
Abmas, the Summit League’s leading scorer, finished with 18 points as he was one of four ORU players in double figures.
“In that period, we didn’t finish some Zone 1 attempts and we had some bad turnovers,” said Sather of UND’s play following its last lead. “We had two turnovers in the first half and eight in the second and that’s too many. We started out the first two possessions of the second half with two turnovers when we got two stops.
“We did enough to compete with them. But we just made too many mistakes and missed too many Zone 1 finishes.”
Paul Bruns led UND with 17 points while Matt Norman and Ethan Igbanuao finished with 16 and 15, respectively.
ORU came into the game on heels of a blowout loss at North Dakota State on Thursday, a game that ended with an ugly pushing and yelling match between the teams. Two ORU players were suspended for the first half of Saturday’s game and the Golden Eagles’ head coach Paul Mill was fined $5,000 for the incident.
That ending didn’t seem to affect ORU’s play, however. The Golden Eagles shot 48 percent and didn’t have a turnover in the first half
Mills was not made available for comment after the 1 p.m. game as the team had a late-afternoon flight scheduled out of Grand Forks.
For UND, however, the focus now will be on the final two games and next season.
“We had a lot better fight than we did Thursday,” said UND’s Brady Danielson. “Two more games left. All of our focus is on Tuesday. We just have to go and get it.”