Game Notes: UND set for another tall task in Vandals
GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Two of the hottest teams in the Big Sky will collide Saturday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center as North Dakota takes on Idaho in a pivotal league matchup. Tip-off is set for 4:05 p.m. CT.
UND VS. IDAHO SERIES
All-time: Idaho leads 3-1
In Grand Forks: Idaho leads 1-0
Big Sky Regular Season: Idaho leads 2-1
Big Sky Tournament: Never met
Last Meeting: Idaho 65, UND 64 (Feb. 13, 2016)
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. UND: 1-3
Idaho Head Coach Don Verlin vs. UND: 2-1
WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
TV: Fox Sports North Plus/FCS Central
Live Video Stream: www.WatchBigSky.com
Radio: 1440 AM (Grand Forks) | 790 AM (Fargo/Moorhead)
Live Audio Stream: www.UNDSports.com and UND Sports Mobile App
Live Stats: www.UNDSports.com
IN THE PAINT…
• UND has won nine of its last 11 games and sits alone in second place in the league standings at 9-3 after registering a 95-86 win over Eastern Washington on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Vandals have won eight of 10 and moved into a third-place tie with the Eagles at 8-4 thanks to an 88-76 road win at Northern Colorado.
• The 9-3 start is UND’s best since joining the Big Sky prior to the 2012-13 season.
• The Fighting Hawks will look to cap a perfect 3-game Big Sky homestand against the Vandals, who were one of only two Big Sky teams to sweep UND a season ago. Idaho posted a 74-71 win in Grand Forks (Dec. 31, 2015) and edging the Fighting Hawks 65-65 on their home court (Feb. 13, 2016).
• The win over the Eagles pushed UND’s record to 9-1 at the Betty this season (6-0 in league games) and the Fighting Hawks have now won 11-straight Big Sky home games dating back to last season.
• With Weber State’s 77-74 loss to Sacramento State on Thursday, UND moved to within a half-game of the Wildcats, who are now 9-2 in Big Sky play.
• The stretch of nine wins in 11 games is UND’s best since moving to the Division I level (2008-09) and best overall since head coach Brian Jones led his first UND squad to 10-straight wins in his first season with the program (2007-08).
• Quinton Hooker scored a season-high 35 points in the win over Eastern Washington and had 21 of those in the first half that saw UND match its most first-half points in a game this season with 53.
ON THE HORIZON
UND begins a three-game Big Sky road swing next Thursday at Idaho State. The Fighting Hawks have won their previous three Big Sky road games in Pocatello inside Holt Arena, but this game will be played at Reed Gym.
LAST TIME OUT: North Dakota 95, Eastern Washington 86 (Feb. 11)
GRAND FORKS, N.D. – North Dakota prevailed over Eastern Washington, breaking a second-place tie in the Big Sky standings with the Eagles thanks to a 95-86 victory Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Senior Quinton Hooker led the Fighting Hawks (14-8, 9-3 BSC) with a season-high 35 points and sophomore Cortez Seales added a season-high 21 off the bench for the home team. Seales’ output was the most for him in a game since dropping 27 in his collegiate debut last season.
Hooker scored 21 first-half points as UND jumped out to a 53-45 lead at the break. Seales had 13 of his points after halftime. Those two were joined in double figures by Geno Crandall (14) and Conner Avants (10).
With its 95-86 win over Eastern Washington, UND improved to 9-1 at The Betty and have won 11 straight against Big Sky foes dating back to last season. The Fighting Hawks are averaging 88.0 ppg and shooting 51.0 percent from the field in home games this season, while opponents are only averaging 69.6 ppg and shooting just 41.7 percent from the field.
UND has a winning formula working this season and the results are a 11-0 record when the Fighting Hawks score 80 or more points in a game. They have reached that figure in seven of their last nine games and are only 3-8 when being held below 80 points.
SIGNED, SEALES AND DELIVERED
Sophomore Cortez Seales scored a season-high 21 points off the bench in the win over Eastern Washington (Feb. 9) and also added three assists and two blocks. It was just the second 20-point plus game of his career (27 in collegiate debut vs. Minnesota-Morris). Over his last five games, Seales is averaging 12.2 ppg and has reached double figures three times. He only had three double-figure scoring games in three of 16 games prior to his scoring surge.
HOOKER MOVES INTO NINTH PLACE ON SCORING CHARTS
With his seventh 30-plus point game of his career against Eastern Washington (Feb. 9), senior Quinton Hooker moved into ninth place on UND’s all-time scoring charts with 1,594 points. His 35-point performance bumped Chad Mustard (1996-2000) down to 10th on the charts (1,568). Next up for Hooker to pass is Jon Haaven (1951-57), who scored 1,634 career points.
Over the past two seasons, senior Quinton Hooker has turned in three of the top four single-game scoring performances at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center since it opened for action before the 2004-05 season. Hooker had the single-game record last season against Portland State (Feb. 25, 2016) with 38. The single-game scoring mark set by an opponent of 34 points has been set twice (Taylor Braun, NDSU; Nov. 24, 2013 and Mark Yelovich, SIU-Edwardsville; Feb. 18, 2010). Here’s a look at UND’s top individual scoring performances in the building:
HALFTIME DEFICIT, WHO CARES
The Fighting Hawks have trailed at the half in 11 games this season and have found a way to come back and win six of those contests. The largest deficit overcome was an 11-point spread vs. CSU-Bakersfield (Nov. 27) during the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic in Dayton, Ohio. UND closed that game on a 16-0 run to win 57-55. UND has trailed at the break in six of its last eight Big Sky games and won five of those contests.
UND’s 7-2 start halfway through the Big Sky schedule was the program’s best start in five seasons as a league member and matched the best conference start since the 2001-02 North Central squad also started 7-2.
WELCOME TO SPLITSVILLE
During the Big Sky conference season, each team has four different road trips with back-to-back games at varying travel partners. Since joining the league, UND has split at least 15 of those trips, swept two of them and been swept just three times. Overall, the Fighting Hawks own a respectable 19-25 in road Big Sky games over the last four-plus seasons.
THE ONE AND ONLY
Senior Quinton Hooker is the only player in program history to score 1,500 points (1,594), grab 400 rebounds (456), dish out 300 assists (379) and net 150 steals (174) in a career. He is second among active Big Sky scorer’s trailing only Weber State’s Jeremy Senglin (1,786). His 174 steals are tops among active league players.
Sophomore Geno Crandall has been on a scoring surge of late with five 20-plus point scoring games in UND’s last eight contests. The Minneapolis native had only three in his first 43 career games for the Fighting Hawks. He is averaging 20.3 ppg over that span of contests, which includes being held to just two points in the 25-point win over Idaho State (Jan. 21).
EXTRA INSIGHT …
• Senior Corey Baldwin made his 100th career 3-pointer against Eastern Washington (Feb. 9). It was the only trey he connected on, but the Bridgeport, Conn., native has made two or more triples in 17 of 22 games this season.
• Sophomore Conner Avants has reached double figures in back-to-back games after being held to single digits in his previous four contests. Avants is averaging 12.5 ppg in those two games. He ranks sixth in the Big Sky in field goal percentage (58.5).
• With his recent scoring surge, sophomore Geno Crandall is averaging a career-best 15.2 ppg (12th in the Big Sky) overall and 16.6 ppg in Big Sky play (13th). He has reached double figures in 17 of his 21 contests this season. He has amassed 654 career points (12.6 ppg; 52 career games), which is seventh all-time among sophomores at UND.
• Crandall is tops among Big Sky guards in shooting percentage in both overall games (51.4) and second in league games (53.2).
• Junior Drick Bernstine posted his eighth double-digit rebounding game against UNC (Feb. 4), pulling down 10 boards against the Bears. He added eight points and equaled his career-high with blocks.
• The Fighting Hawks improved to 7-3 all-time on New Year’s Eve with the eight-point, overtime win at Sacramento State (Dec. 31).
• UND’s 37-point loss to Portland State to open league play was the largest for the program in a Big Sky contest in four-plus seasons. It was only the fifth 20-plus point setback in 39 all-time league losses. The worst previous defeat was a 95-63 loss to Weber State during UND’s first season in the league (2012-13).
• Junior forward Solomon Rolls-Tyson left the program during the Holiday break to pursue a professional career in Norway. Rolls-Tyson transferred to UND from Utah State Eastern this past summer and was redshirting.
• Junior Carson Shanks scored a career-high 17 points in 17 minutes of action at Northern Iowa (Dec. 10). Shanks went 8-for-10 from the floor against the Panthers.
• After being held to a season-low four points at NDSU (Dec. 7), senior Quinton Hooker responded with a team-high 22 points at Northern Iowa (Dec. 10). Hooker was held to single digits just twice last season as a junior in 32 games. One of those was a four-point outing at Montana and he responded with 25 points in the next game at Montana State.
• UND’s eight-point loss to the Panthers was a 38-point improvement from last season’s 97-51 loss to UNI at home. The Fighting Hawks trailed 54-20 at halftime of that contest and led the Panthers 33-29 this year.
• Hooker was named to the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic All-Tournament team after averaging 18.7 ppg during the team’s three games at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio. Hooker’s 29-point outing in the opener vs. North Florida was one shy of his season high of 30 set in the win over Mayville State (Nov. 15).
OPPONENT PREVIEW: IDAHO
• Idaho head coach Don Verlin has the Vandals on the rise in the Big Sky standings. After getting off to an 0-2 start in league play, Idaho has reeled off wins in eight of its last 10 games to move into a tie for third place with Eastern Washington.
• The catalyst behind the rise on the court has been junior Victor Sanders, who is averaging 25.5 ppg in league play and reached that figure in the 88-76 victory over Northern Colorado on Thursday.
• The Vandals jumped out early on the Bears and led by as many as 28 in the second half before holding off a fierce rally Northern Colorado that saw the lead cut to single digits in the closing minutes.
• Sanders is scoring 21.6 ppg in overall games and is the only Vandal starter averaging double figures. UND held Sanders to just five points in the home loss to Idaho, but the Sherwood brothers (Chad and Nate) combined for 27 points off the Vandals’ bench.
• The difference in that three-point contest in Grand Forks literally came down to the free throw line where Idaho went 18-for-24, while UND went 15-for-25. Both teams went 24-for-53 from the field and made eight 3-pointers in the game.
• Both Sherwood are starters this season and Chad is averaging 6.1 ppg, while Nate is chipping in 6.4 ppg. Sanders did not play in the Vandals’ one-point win in Moscow due to wrist injury.
• Juco-transfer Brayon Blake started nine non-conference games, but has come off the bench in all 11 of his Big Sky appearances. Blake is one of the top scoring reserves in the league, averaging 11.2 ppg. He is also the Vandals’ top rebounder at 6.7 rpg.
• The Vandals have been winning games on the defensive end. They rank at the top of the Big Sky in scoring defense (71.0/73.2 ppg) and field goal percentage defense (40.8/40.8) in both overall and league games. Idaho is also tops in the Big Sky, allowing only 33.5 rebounds per game.
For just the second time as a Big Sky member, North Dakota had a trio of players score 20-plus points in the Fighting Hawks’ 90-85 victory over Montana State (Jan. 12). The Bobcats were also the first victim of that accomplishment by UND back in 2012-13 when Jamal Webb (23), Aaron Anderson (20) and Troy Huff (20) achieved the feat in an 86-73 win over MSU in Grand Forks (Jan. 12). In this win over the Bobcats, Quinton Hooker (24), Geno Crandall (22) and Conner Avants (20) all scored 20 or more points for the Fighting Hawks.
HOOKER COLLECTS BIG SKY PLAYER OF THE WEEK AWARD
Senior Quinton Hooker collected his first Big Sky Player of the Week award and third of his career on Jan. 10 after leading the Fighting Hawks to pair of home wins over Northern Arizona (Jan. 5) and Southern Utah (Jan. 7). He averaged 21.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg and 4.0 rpg in those two victories.
After going over 110 years without seeing a triple-double in program history, UND fans have now witnessed the rare feat in back-to-back seasons. Quinton Hooker recorded the initial one last season with a 13-point, 12-rebound and 10-assist effort in a win over Idaho State (Feb. 4). Earlier this season, Drick Bernstine joined Hooker in the exclusive club by registering 10 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a win over Presentation College (Nov. 20). Bernstine is one of only six Big Sky players with 10 assists in a game this season and also leads the league with seven double-digit rebounding games.
In each of the past five seasons, head coach Brian Jones and his staff has coached a game in their barefeet to help raise awareness for the Samaritan’s Feet cause. The nonprofit group is dedicated to providing shoes to impoverished children throughout the world. Last year, Jones was named the organization’s 2016 Barefoot Coach of the Year and was recognized at a special breakfast during Final Four Weekend in Houston. The Fighting Hawks have also participated in local shoe drives each of the past five years where the staff and players pass out shoes to those in need and also wash the feet of the children receiving the shoes. For more information on Samaritan’s Feet, visit www.samaritansfeet.org.
All three of UND’s opponents at the MABC Classic in Dayton won 20-plus games a season ago. Cal State-Bakersfield participated in the NCAA Tournament, while North Florida was the Atlantic Sun regular season champion and played in the NIT. In fact, UND’s seven Division I non-conference games were all against teams that reached the 20-win plateau a season ago. Five of those teams participated in postseason play. Northern Iowa and Iowa both won a game in the 2016 NCAA Tournament before bowing out in the round of 32. The Panthers loss to Oklahoma in a game that featured a frantic comeback by the Sooners, while the Hawkeyes fell to eventual National Champion Villanova 87-68.