Friday, March 14, 2014

North Dakota Advances to Big Sky Title Game

In their second year in the Big Sky, and second year of full DI eligibility, North Dakota will be playing for a spot in the Big Dance. In the first semifinal, they beat Portland State 79-63, jumping out to an early lead and never looking back.

UND jumped out of the gates by pounding the ball inside with great efficiency, and hitting the glass whenever they missed. They couldn't hit outside shots all game (1/9 from three), but they still scored 79 by getting it down low, and grabbing 18 offensive rebounds. Early, it was Jaron Nash (13 points, 6 rebounds and Alonzo Traylor (8 points - all early) that led the way, getting UND a big start.

As the game wore on, PSU had a tough time containing Aaron Anderson, who was brilliant once again. He had 19 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists, constantly getting to the bucket with his quick acceleration. Troy Huff struggled from the floor again (3/14 FG), but his aggressive attacking at the basket led to a 12/15 night from the charity stripe.

All night, North Dakota never let up offensively. Though their field goal percentage doesn't look great, their offensive rebounding and free throw totals tell the story. They were constantly attacking the basket and getting it inside, and PSU just couldn't find ways to slow them down with their four-guard lineups.

It's a tough end to the season for Portland State, thought there are still many reasons to be proud. When they were sitting at 6-8 in the conference with a tough schedule down the stretch, I'm not sure anyone expected that their season would end in the Big Sky semifinals. Though they need to find some frontcourt players, they will still return a lot of talent next season.

But this was North Dakota's day. They played without key reserve Josh Schuler (out after McKinney's foul last night), but it didn't matter. On Saturday night, they play for their first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

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