Defense shines in final moments to lead UND to 72-71 victory

Sims’ free throw with 3.5 remaining breaks tie; Rebraca’s block seals win
Published: Jan. 9, 2021 at 3:50 PM CST
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TULSA, Okla. (UND Athletics) – Seybian Sims forced a turnover and converted a free throw before a Filip Rebraca block at the buzzer sealed a 72-71 North Dakota victory over Oral Roberts on Friday night from the Mabee Center in Tulsa.

UND (3-9, 2-1 Summit League) battled back from a halftime deficit and a two-point Oral Roberts (5-6, 2-1 Summit League) lead with just over a minute to play to pick up its first road win of the season and snap an eight-game home winning streak for ORU.

The Fighting Hawks had four of their five starters reach double figures, led by Filip Rebraca’s game-high 24 points on 11-of-20 shooting. The junior also had a season-best nine rebounds and came up with a pair of huge rejections.

Making his second start of the season, Ethan Igbanugo provided a spark with 11 points and knocking down three shots from deep in a game-high 35 minutes of action. Sims and Mitchell Sueker each added 10 points, with Sims grabbing five rebounds and the game-tilting steal.

Despite not registering a make from the field, Caleb Nero proved to be effective on offensive in his first game back in his hometown with five assists and five rebounds to go alongside his four points. Gertautas Urbonavicius was also a spark off the bench with eight points and two boards.

As a team, UND shot .452 from the field while holding Oral Roberts to just .385 and 7-of-29 (.241) from distance. The visitors enjoyed their best game from three on the season, registering eight makes on 22 attempts (.364).

North Dakota came out with some jump in the opening few minutes, building an early 7-2 advantage while spreading out the scoring across three-different players. After Oral Roberts trimmed the lead down to 14-13, the Golden Eagles held the Fighting Hawks scoreless for over four minutes while scoring 13 straight points themselves to jump in front, 26-17, with just under eight minutes to play in the first half.

The visitors started to see some triples fall as the half wore on, with Gertautas Urbonavicius knocking down a pair before Igbanugo drilled one in transition to pull the ORU lead under 10 points, 29-22. It was the Hawks who started to crank up the defense and force a scoreless drought, with Brady Danielson forcing an offensive foul to help UND hold the Golden Eagles without a bucket for over three minutes to claw back into the contest.

On the offensive end, Rebraca returned from a brief trip to the locker room to get back on the attack. The junior found a cutting Sims for a bucket before driving through the contact for a basket himself to cut the lead down to just three, 31-28, with just over two minutes to play in the stanza.

UND made it a 9-0 run and knotted the game at 31 following an offensive rebound and bucket by Sueker, but ORU pulled ahead late in the first half to head to the locker room with a 37-33 advantage.

The Hawks held off the Golden Eagles’ attack from distance over the opening 20 minutes, limiting ORU to just 3-for-14 from distance, but the hosts did connect on 10-of-11 from the charity stripe in the first half.

The teams went back-and-forth through the opening parts of the second half, but ORU stretched the lead to six before Rebraca took over with back-to-back three-point plays, missing the free throws on both plays, to cut the lead back down to just a pair. Minutes later, Igbanugo got in on the action with a pair of triples on two straight possessions to make it a 51-50 ORU lead with just under 11 minutes to go.

Kevin Obanor and Rebraca went shot-for-shot over the next few minutes, with the two trading buckets in the paint before each knocking down a triple on ensuing possessions to put Oral Roberts in front, 63-61, with just about five minutes remaining.

The back-and-forth affair continued over the final moments, with UND jumping in front, 69-66 on a triple from Sims before the Golden Eagles answered with a three of their own to knot the score at 69 with 1:17 to play.

Following a basket from both teams to move the score to 71-71 with 25.2 remaining, Sims stripped his player of the ball and sank a shot at the foul line to put the Hawks in front, 72-71, with just over three ticks left. Rebraca made it back-to-back great defensive plays with a rejection on a buzzer-beating attempt to seal the victory and move UND to a 2-1 conference record.

North Dakota will go for the weekend sweep of Oral Roberts tomorrow evening at 7:30 p.m. from Tulsa.

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