UND hits the road in search of its first Summit League men's basketball win
Hawks will play at league-leader South Dakota State on Thursday
GRAND FORKS – The UND men’s basketball team is looking for its first Summit League win this weekend.
Simply, it won’t be easy as the Fighting Hawks play at South Dakota State on Thursday and at South Dakota on Saturday.
For a team that’s 0-7 in the Summit and 4-16 overall, the weekend presents a monster challenge since SDSU (8-0 Summit, 17-4 overall) has one of the top offenses in the county. The Jacks are second in Division I field goal percentage (52.32 percent) and scoring (87.6 ppg). They trail only national power Gonzaga in both categories.
Also, UND has not won in Brookings since Feb. 11, 1995. Since that date, SDSU has won 19 straight against UND in Frost Arena. In the Division I era, SDSU has defeated UND in 12 of 13 meetings.
UND, however, may have turned in its best league outings of the season last week, pushing Oral Roberts and Kansas City to the limit. Both games were on the road.
But close finishes aren’t rewarded much in college basketball.
“We’ve got to do a better job of closing and we need our veteran guys to do a better job of leading by example with that; not getting casual,” said UND coach Paul Sather.
Despite the winless start to the league season, UND’s Ethan Igbanugo, who led the Hawks last week in scoring, said the Hawks simply need to figure out late-game situations.
“Right now, what it’s all about is going out and finishing those games and grabbing it,” said Igbanugo. “At a certain point, it’s no longer about ‘we came close; we played a good game.’ At a certain point, you have to get the win. It’s definitely more about just keeping the focus the whole game and not allowing some of the wrongs that we’ve allowed.”
UND has been led by freshman Paul Bruns, who is averaging 14.1 points. Caleb Nero, who recently returned to the lineup after a lower-body injury, is averaging 11.1 points.
But the Hawks are still looking for inside scoring punch and will face a dominating frontcourt from SDSU. And the Jacks also dominate on the perimeter, forcing UND to a pick-you-poison defensive philosophy.
“They make you pay if you over help in the post,” said Sather. “They have three guys who are highly efficient inside. You need to rotate and take away the threes because they’re really good shooters. Their statistics are just ridiculous in what kind of shots they get. That inside presence allows that to happen. They can pick you apart that way.”
It won’t get easier for UND on Saturday either, as South Dakota (5-3, 12-7) has won five straight.
“It’s going to be a good opportunity for our team to go and play against two really good teams,” said Sather. “So, let’s go and play.”