Through one half of play, it looked like we were in for a tightly contested battle in the second Big Sky quarterfinal. But early in the second half, North Dakota made it well known that such a close game was not to be.
UND used a 14-0 run to spark a dominant second half, riding it to a 69-52 victory over Southern Utah to advance to the Big Sky semifinals to play Weber State. There was a stretch of time where it seemed that North Dakota could not miss, while Southern Utah wasn't able to get any type of decent looks. UND was smothering defensively, holding the Thunderbirds to just 28.8% shooting on the night, including 5/19 from downtown.
Offensively, UND broke a SUU zone by constantly getting open looks from the three, especially from the corners. Josh Schuler was a key in the second half run, and he finished with 10 points off the bench.
Troy Huff did a little bit of everything for North Dakota, showing why he was a unanimous first-team Big Sky selection. He started the second half with five straight points, finishing with 15 on the day. He also pulled down seven rebounds, dished out four assists, and finished with four steals. SUU was unable to contain him on either end. Mitch Willmer is another guy that had a big day - probably the best of his career. He finished with 11 points, 14 rebounds, and four blocks.
For SUU, it was always going to be a struggle to score enough points if their stars had off nights, and that is what happened. Jackson Stevenett had a strong start, but finished with 15 points on just 5/18 shooting. Damon Heuir had eight points on 1/10 shooting. There is no way that SUU will win when that happens.
The Thunderbirds finish the year 11-20. North Dakota prepares to play Weber State in the first semifinal on Friday night.
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