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UND earns gritty win over Kansas City

(KVLY)
Published: Jan. 2, 2021 at 10:17 PM CST
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) - The University of North Dakota men’s basketball team slugged out a 52-45 victory over Kansas City on Saturday afternoon from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

In the first Summit League contest of the season, UND (2-8, 1-0 Summit League) enjoyed returning to Grand Forks to play a home game for the first time in 316 days to capture its fifth league win at home in the last seven tries.

Despite the low-scoring, defensive battle, the game featured only two lead changes and four ties, as the Fighting Hawks led for a season-high 36:29 of the tilt to snap a four-game losing skid to Kansas City (4-6, 0-1 Summit League).

Filip Rebraca led the way in the post for the hosts, dropping a game-high 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting while grabbing five rebounds to record his 18th straight game in double figures.

Despite coming off the bench, Ethan Igbanugo provided a spark offensively for the Hawks with 11 points, three rebounds and a pair of assists in nearly 30 minutes of action. The junior connected on three of his five shots from the field while also going a perfect 4-for-4 at the line.

Mitchell Sueker also added big points off the bench with 11, striking for all of those at the charity stripe. The Marshall, Minn., native went nearly flawless at the line with an 11-for-12 afternoon, while adding seven boards.

Tyree Ihenacho stuffed the stat sheet once again for the green and white, with nine points, a team-best eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. The freshman also played just over 34 minutes of action and went 3-of-5 from the field.

Turnovers proved to be an issue for both teams, but it was North Dakota who turned them into points. The Hawks forced 17 giveaways by the Roos and turned it into 15 points while Kansas City could only muster 11 points off 18 UND turnovers.

Neither team could get much going out of the gate, with UND striking for the game’s first four points over the opening five minutes of the contest. The defense was stout for both sides as the half wore on, as it wasn’t until a pair of Sueker free throws with 11:14 to go in the period that a team reached double figures on the scoreboard.

The 10-4 lead for UND quickly evaporated, however, with Kansas City fighting back with an 8-0 run to jump in front, 12-10, for what proved to be the only time in the contest with just over seven minutes to play in the stanza. Ihenacho and Igbanugo helped the Hawks respond with nine straight of their own, combining for seven of those points during the spurt to jump back in front, 19-12, at the final media timeout of the half.

The Lakeville, Minn., native added two more points in the final moments to send UND to the locker room with a 21-16 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

Defensively, UND turned in its best 20-minute performance of the season so far, holding the Roos to just .280 from the field and 0-of-7 from deep. The Hawks also forced nine turnovers that led to seven points and the halftime lead.

Out of the break, the offense started to pick up for both sides, but it was UND still maintaining an advantage, 27-20, at the first media stoppage of the period. After the Roos whittled the deficit down to four, 31-27, with just over 12 minutes to go, the Hawks got back to the charity stripe to score their next six points, and six of the next eight overall, to extend the lead back to seven, 37-30, with half of the second stanza complete.

Kansas City made yet another push out of the next media timeout, scoring seven straight points to tie the game at 37; however, Rebraca followed his own miss on the ensuing possession to put the Hawks back in front before Ihenacho drained a desperation triple at the end of the shot clock to send those in attendance crazy and push the hosts back up by five.

The lead hovered around five over the final few minutes, thanks to a pair of tough baskets from Igbanugo, before Sueker salted the game away at the line for the Hawks to preserve the 52-45 victory and a 1-0 record to begin league play.

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