UND overcomes 19-point deficit for 83-81 win over WIU

Filip Rebraca tallies double-double; UND improves to 4-5 in league play
Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 11:00 PM CST
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GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) - Trailing by as many as 19 in the first half and 18 over the final 20 minutes, the University of North Dakota men’s basketball team rallied to defeat Western Illinois, 83-81, on Friday night from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.

UND (5-13, 4-5 Summit League) weathered a barrage in the first half from Western Illinois’ (2-12, 0-7 Summit League) Will Carius, who tallied 22 of his season-high 34 in the opening 20 minutes, to mount the largest comeback victory for the team since March 6, 2018 vs. Montana State in the Big Sky Conference Quarterfinals.

Filip Rebraca was huge in helping spark the comeback for the Fighting Hawks, scoring a team-high 25 points on 7-of-10 from the field while grabbing 14 rebounds and dishing out four assists for his second double-double of the season. The junior scored 18 of his points, had seven of his boards and all four of his helpers in the second half.

Bentiu Panoam continued his strong play during league play, scoring 14 points and knocking down three of his five attempts from three to notch his fourth game in double figures this season. Caleb Nero was the final Fighting Hawk in double figures with 12 points in a game-high 28 minutes off the bench.

After shooting only .389 in the first half, UND exploded for a .607 clip in the second half to record a .522 mark for the game, the first time this season that the Hawks have shot better than 50 percent on the season. On the defensive end, the hosts held the Leathernecks to just .397 from the field for the contest.

North Dakota struggled out of the gates against an energized Western Illinois squad through the opening five-plus minutes. UND turned the ball over five times and missed its first four shots from the field to see WIU grab an early 8-3 advantage at the game’s first media timeout. The Leathernecks were making it a mission to fire from three over that stretch, knocking down their first two attempts to spark the early lead.

After the lead grew to 10 at 15-5 for the visitors, UND started to chip away over the next few minutes, eventually trimming it down to just four; however, Western Illinois continued to make from distance, led by Carius’ onslaught, to embark on a 15-3 run to take a 30-13 advantage with just under six minutes remaining in the first half.

Carius made it 22 points on a near-perfect first half from the field helped the Leathernecks carry a 41-29 lead into the locker room at halftime.

Out of the halftime break, UND brought it under 10 on a few occasions in the early portion of the frame, but Western Illinois continued to attack from three. The Leathernecks hit three of their first five attempts from beyond-the-arc, led by a pair from Carius, to put the visitors up by 18, 60-42, with just over 11 minutes to play in the contest.

The Hawks started to rally over the next six minutes, outscoring the Leathernecks, 26-13, over that stretch to cut the deficit down to just five with just over five minutes on the clock. Rebraca was the catalyst for the run, knocking down 10 points himself on the spurt to ignite the crowd and force a WIU timeout.

After back-to-back stops on the defensive end, UND drilled threes on two straight possessions from Panoam and Nero to put the Hawks in front, 74-73, for the first time in the game with 3:11 to play. Rebraca and Nero each connected again to keep the lead in favor of the hosts before Gertautas Urbonavicius added a free throw to make the score, 80-79, with 51.8 to play.

Following a turnover, WIU took the lead back, 81-80, on a pair of free throws but Rebraca answered back with two of his own from the line to put the hosts back in front by one before a stop on the defensive end gave the ball back to the Hawks with four seconds remaining. Nero sank one of two before Rebraca intercepted a last-second heave to seal the 83-81 victory.

North Dakota will aim for the weekend sweep over Western Illinois tomorrow night at 7:30 from the Betty.

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