MEN'S BASKETBALL: UND needs three wins in three days, starting with Sacramento State

OGDEN, Utah -- UND is expected to start five seniors Thursday in its Big Sky Conference tournament opener against Sacramento State. The UND seniors -- seven altogether -- have played an incredible amount of basketball during the past four years a...


OGDEN, Utah - UND is expected to start five seniors Thursday in its Big Sky Conference tournament opener against Sacramento State.

The UND seniors - seven altogether - have played an incredible amount of basketball during the past four years as they’ve started 448 games and played in 633. They’ve had ups and downs, but there is one constant with this group of seven.

In March, they’ve been pretty good.

UND is 6-1 in March postseason play the past three seasons. The UND seniors - led by Troy Huff and Aaron Anderson - have won two Great West Conference championships and have qualified for three-straight tournaments.


But there is one goal UND’s seniors haven’t met - qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

UND needs to win three games in three days to reach the goal, starting Thursday against Sacramento State.

And this is the one season in which anything is possible, considering little separates the top seven teams in the league. UND is the No. 2 seed, but has lost to No. 7 Sacramento.

“Seeds mean nothing, outside of Weber State because they get a first-round bye and home-court advantage,” said Jones. “Everybody has beaten everybody this year. On a neutral floor, it’s all about who is better on that day.”

UND finished the Big Sky season at 12-8 and in a three-way tie for second place. North Dakota, however, comes into the tournament on the heels of a disappointing loss at last-place Southern Utah last week.

“That game hurt because we wanted second all by ourselves,” said Anderson. “We didn’t play the way we needed to and gave life to a team that’s been struggling all year. We didn’t expect that loss and we’re glad it didn’t come later.”

Now, the focus turns to Sacramento State, which has not qualified for the Big Sky tournament since 2006.

Sacramento made its way into the seven-team tournament on the last day of the regular season. The Hornets needed help, too.


“It’s been a crazy year,” said Huff. “Some teams we thought wouldn’t make the tournament did make it. Some teams we did think would make it didn’t.

“It’s crazy and I think the tournament will be that way, too.”

Both Huff and Anderson said because of the strange nature of the league this season, they’ll have to draw on their past postseason experiences.

“We’ve all played in multiple conference tournaments,” said Huff. “We know what to expect. Every team now will be playing at a higher level.”

UND’s senior class did make an impact in the Big Sky.

UND finished its second season in the league and through those two seasons, only Weber State and Montana - the Big Sky powers in recent seasons - have won more league games than North Dakota.

But there is still one more goal to reach for UND’s seniors.

“These guys know what it takes and how hard it is,” said Jones. “My hope is that their sense of urgency will be at a whole different level because this is their last go-around. And this group gets only two cracks at the NCAA.”


For a variety of reasons, UND teams the past four seasons have started slow but have played well in March. Under Jones, now in his eighth season, UND is 18-10 in the month of March.

“Each of my four years here, we’ve had ups and downs,” said Anderson, who has never missed a game during his career. “But we usually peak at the right time. We just have to stay the course because we know there will be ups and downs in a game as well.”

Jones’ motto has been stay the course. And he’s said this senior class has done just that.

“They’ve paved the way for this program,” he said.

Senior Stats

  •  1: Point guard Jamal Webb is UND’s all-time career leader in steals with 232.
  •  2: Webb’s ranking in all-time UND assists (482).
  •  3: The 2013-14 senior class has three 1,000-point scorers - Troy Huff, Aaron Anderson and Jamal Webb. Only one other class in program history can claim that distinction (1999-2000; Chad Mustard, Marcus Travis and Hunter Reinke).
  •  6-1: The postseason record posted by the UND senior class.
  •  7: UND’s seniors, Troy Huff, Aaron Anderson, Jamal Webb, Josh Schuler, Jaron Nash, Alonzo Traylor and Brandon Brekke.
  •  15: With 1,940 points career points, Huff ranks 15th among active scorers in Division I basketball (third at UND). He also is 16th among active players with 219 career steals (second at UND).
  •  44: The 2013-14 seniors combined to go 44-12 at home during their four-year run at UND. The team went 11-3 at The Betty this season.
  •  448: Career games started by UND’s seniors. Overall, they’ve played in 633.
  •  541: Combined 3-pointers by the seniors during their careers. Anderson leads the way with 147.


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
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