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MEN'S BASKETBALL: UND hopes to gain momentum in Saturday's game against South Dakota State

A year ago, South Dakota State's Chad White hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Jackrabbits past UND 71-70 at Frost Arena. It was tough loss for UND, considering the Green and White played one of its better games of the season.

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A year ago, South Dakota State's Chad White hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Jackrabbits past UND 71-70 at Frost Arena. It was tough loss for UND, considering the Green and White played one of its better games of the season.

The two teams meet again Saturday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Revenge won't be the motivating factor for UND, however.

North Dakota's mission Saturday is to gain momentum as it prepares for the upcoming Big Sky Conference season.

The Jackrabbits aren't where they were a year ago when Nate Wolters -- now in the NBA -- was driving the SDSU program to its second straight NCAA tournament appearance.

"But this is a program in which we have to measure ourselves," said UND coach Brian Jones. "It'll be a difficult game. We'll have to play with the energy and execution levels similar to what we had against NDSU.

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"They're big and skilled. They'll present problems for us with their size."

UND is 3-6 and one area of concern is its defense, particularly in the post.

Opponents are shooting 47 percent against UND, but only 31 percent from the three-point stripe.

Jones said his team's defense is a work in progress. But he likes where his players are headed.

"I've seen strides (of improvement)," said Jones. "It's more about consistency. They've shown they can play good defense for 25 to 28 minutes. But can they sustain that for 40 minutes against a quality opponent? I haven't seen it.

"But our guys come to work every day. As long as they do that, you'll see strides. They have unbelievable will and they care."

UND wraps up its nonconference schedule Saturday against the Jacks, who are 6-7.

UND's schedule this week ranks the seventh toughest in Division I. For a while, UND's schedule was ranked as the second most-difficult in the country. UND's RPI is No. 133 this week, compared to SDSU's No. 222.

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Also, UND's leading scorer Troy Huff leads the Big Sky in scoring, averaging 21.9 points per game. That ranks 17th nationally in Division I.

UND's schedule, however, hasn't been a deflating adventure.

"Some games get you down but our coaches do a good job of keeping us up and focused," said UND senior Jaron Nash. "In the end, it'll pay off for us."

Nelson reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1268, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1268 or send e-mail to wnelson@gfherald.com .

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 wnelson@gfherald.com.
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