"I think we took another step tonight and did what good teams, maturing teams, growing teams do, which is find a way to win when you play bad, when you play ugly. When you give up 56 percent, you turn it over 18 times and you get outrebounded, you shouldn't win. But these guys withstood a heck of a run in the second half, fought back and made free throws down the stretch and found a way to get it done. That's what growing teams do. That's what good teams do."The key was this... at the half, UNC led 35-26. Within the first two minutes of the second half, NAU went on a 9-0 run to tie the game. It was gut check time for the Bears, and they responded, scoring a quick eight straight points to get the lead back, and they never gave it away after that. They were led by three guys offensively in this game. Tevin Svihovec (24 points, 4 assists), Derrick Barden (21 points, 6 rebounds), and Tate Unruh (17 points, 5 steals) were all huge, which I imagine is about what BJ Hill expected for this season.
The Lumberjacks got DeWayne Russell contributing again, scoring an efficient 15 points and looking like the guy that was so good early in the season. Gabe Rogers also had a big day, leading the team with 23 points. But nobody else was over seven points, and that lack of diversity offensively hurt them.
Both teams are now tied for seventh in the Big Sky at 6-9. The Bears will have another chance to take a big step forward on Saturday night, when they host Sacramento State.
Sacramento State will want to forget Thursday, a night where they lost 49-48 to North Dakota in a game that they had chances to win. The Hornets shot 33% from the floor, and seemed to miss a ton of easy shots in this game. It is their fourth one-point conference loss of the season, which is remarkable to think about.
Down the stretch, both teams gave a how-to on what not to do at the end of games. With UND clinging to a three point lead, they missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Hornets got the ball, and scored. UND inbounded with about 18 seconds left... and Aaron Anderson dribbled the ball a bit before throwing it away. Fortunately for UND, the Hornets then dribbled the ball away, having to foul Lenny Antwi, whose ensuing miss dropped him to 5/12 on the year from the line. The Hornets got the ball back, and while they didn't have a lot of time, Dylan Garrity gave a late pass to John Dickson, whose desperation 30 footer missed the mark. Even though there isn't a lot of time, Garrity has to take the ball strong to the basket in that situation.
Troy Huff led the way again for North Dakota, with 13 points and 10 rebounds. It was not a pretty game by any means (UND didn't get a field goal in the last ten minutes), but sometimes that happens. Brian Jones will take the ugly game if it means a victory any day.
UND is now 8-7 and tied for third, while Sac State is 7-8, tied for fifth, and all of a sudden they are not too far off from the cut line between making and missing the tournament.
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