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Mitchell Sueker scores 28 as UND avoids scare from Mayville State

Sueker scores 22 of his 28 points in the second half as Fighting Hawks survive exhibition opener.

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UND's Mitch Sueker slams a basket as Mayville State's Colby Dillenbeck defends in the second half of their game Monday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

If the UND men's basketball program was hoping to ease its nine newcomers into the college basketball season, Mayville State was having none of that Monday night.

The Fighting Hawks had to fight to the final horn and use 28 points from Mitchell Sueker to escape with a 68-64 exhibition win in front of 1,234 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

"We had a lot of looks around the basket and weren't finishing strong," UND coach Paul Sather said. "I think it's really easy sometimes in your mind to assume it's going to be easier and it's not. I give all the credit to their coaches and their players. They came in without a fear. I thought our guys were trying to figure out how they should act."

Mayville State, which led most of the first half, made UND sweat out the final moments. UND's biggest lead was seven points early in the second half.

"We've got some tough returners who have been through the wringer a little bit," Mayville State coach Darren Tighe said. "They don't let us quit, whatever we're doing. That's just what our culture is. It doesn't matter the score, our effort level should be the same. We didn't hang our heads; we stayed in the moment."

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Latrelle Franklin, a 5-foot-8 senior speedster from Temecula, Calif., who scored 17 points, hit a 3-pointer with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game to tie it at 57.

Sueker scored six of the game's next eight points. His lob at the rim with 2:50 to play put UND up four at 63-59.

"Mayville came out with a ton of energy, and we had to respond," Sueker said. "They played well and shot it well. I think we learned some things."

A 3-pointer from Mayville State's Winder Joseph, who ended with a team-high 20 points, trimmed the lead back to 63-62 with 2:32 to play.

After Sueker hit a free throw with 1:37 left to give UND a 66-64 lead, Fighting Hawks' 6-foot-9 transfer post Tsotne Tsartsidze had a block at the rim as the Comets attempted to tie the game on the next possession.

With about 30 seconds left in the game, UND guard Caleb Nero drew a blocking foul in the lane in which the Comets' bench wanted an offensive foul. Nero's resulting free throws with 18.2 seconds left gave UND a 68-64 lead.

The Comets would then miss two shots on their final possession.

"I think you learn a lot from this game," Sather said. "But if you look at a score and just get kind of caught on that, you're not seeing the big picture. I loved how we were guarding some of their stuff late. We just have to continue to learn from it. We have some great practices coming up to get ready for Milwaukee."

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The Hawks host Milwaukee on Nov. 9.

Sueker finished 11-for-19 from the field and was 9-for-12 in the second half.

"I missed some easier finishes in the first half," Sueker said. "I had to calm down, compose myself and keep attacking and they'll fall eventually."

Sueker was joined in double figures by Ethan Igbanugo, who had 11 points.

"(Sueker) is a large human on the perimeter," Tighe said. "He did a nice job spacing and cutting at the right time. That's what's great about playing these games. If we don't do something correctly, and we get a little lazy, they score. He's a good player."

Brendan Howard, a 6-foot-5 junior transfer from Montana State-Billings, finished with eight points in just about six minutes of play, while Bentiu Panoam added seven points off the bench. UND was just 3-for-15 from the 3-point line and 11-for-19 from the foul line.

"They gave us a good fight, for sure," Igbanugo said. "We had a lot of guys checking in for their first Division I game or first time at North Dakota. It was a good test, for sure.

"We need to shake the rust off. We were a little hesitant in the zone. We need to be confident when we're in there and play hard defensively. That's stuff we'll get better as the year goes on."

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Franklin and Joseph had 37 of the team's 64 points for the Comets. Colby Dillenbeck was also in double figures with 11 but he battled foul trouble and played less than 16 minutes. He was a plus-13 when he was on the floor for Mayville State, which plays at Minnesota Crookston on Thursday.

"I loved how we battled," Tighe said. "We got home at 4:30 a.m. on Halloween from Iowa. I wasn't sure how we'd come back, but we showed a lot of heart and that's a positive sign moving forward. But Crookston isn't going to give a rip about what we did today, so we have to get a little better at practice each day and see what we can do on Thursday."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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