TOM MILLER: Hooker’s effort goes unrewarded

UND should've known the storyline was too good to be true. Junior guard Quinton Hooker didn't practice all week. His foot was in a protective boot the days leading up to the game and Fighting Hawks head men's basketball coach Brian Jones didn't t...

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UND should've known the storyline was too good to be true.

Junior guard Quinton Hooker didn't practice all week.

His foot was in a protective boot the days leading up to the game and Fighting Hawks head men’s basketball coach Brian Jones didn't think Hooker was going to play against North Dakota State.

But against the in-state rival Bison, Hooker hobbled and limped and grimaced to 26 points in 33 minutes.

He had the 2,593 in attendance roaring louder than the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center maybe ever has.


In the end, he just didn't win. As the Football Championship Subdivision committee might call it, that was just a quality loss.

After scoring 17 points in the first half, Hooker was upstaged by NDSU freshman Khy Kabellis, who poured in 18 second-half points on 4-for-5 shooting from beyond the arc to lead the Bison to a 69-67 victory over UND.

It’s hard to be too critical of UND, which led for most of the way against the favored Bison. UND certainly played better than it has at home all season against NDSU.

Many fans will remember UND letting the late lead slip away, but the home fans should recall the play of Hooker, too.

"I think our team took a lot from that," Jones said of Hooker fighting through the pain. "He willed us to the win last week (against Bradley). It shows his toughness and pride for this program. It shows you what kind of young man and leader he is."

The first three-fourths of the game lined up for Hooker to play hero. And injured hero at that.

"I thought Hooker was absolutely outstanding tonight," NDSU coach Dave Richman said.

But the feel-good story started to unravel late.


Hooker hit four free throws in the game's final minute to keep UND close, but his game-tying 3-point attempt with 28 seconds left rimmed off.

Then, with about 4 seconds to go, Hooker attacked the hoop to try for a go-ahead drive. He drew contact, hit the floor and didn't receive a foul call.

It seemed an unfair finish for Hooker, who was 9-for-16 from the field and 6-for-6 from the foul line.

Hooker limped into the postgame press conference and said this one was going to sting for a bit.

"We showed how good we can be," he said. "Things finally started to click."

Although UND let a second-half lead slip away against the Bison, the Fighting Hawks provided the home fans a much better product than the thumping UND received by Northern Iowa on Nov. 28 -- the last well-attended game at the Betty.

In fact, Jones said he's never heard his home venue louder.

"It was a great environment, and that's why this game is played," Jones said. "It just doesn't happen enough at this level."


Hooker agreed.

"It was unbelievable, Hooker said. "There's a reason I came here to play. There was that one moment when (Dexter Werner) was at the line, and it was one of those things you live for as a player ... to have your crowd behind you and cheering for you."

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, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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