Shootout goes WIU’s way in 99-87 contest
GRAND FORKS, N.D – Colton Sandage scored a game-high 28 points and added 10 assists to lead Western Illinois past North Dakota, 99-87, in men’s basketball on Saturday evening from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.
UND (5-14, 4-6 Summit League) battled in a game that featured 16 lead changes and 13 ties, but could not overcome a late deficit for the second consecutive game.
Filip Rebraca tallied his second straight game with at least 20 points, scoring a team-high 24 points on 8-of-16 shooting while adding six rebounds and an assist. The junior also became the 39th player in program history to score 1,000-career points and the 25th to also have over 500 career boards.
Tyree Ihenacho battled back after a tough Friday night to score 13 points, dish out three assists, grab three boards and a steal, but was in foul trouble throughout much of the second half and was limited to just 26 minutes.
Seybian Sims and Ethan Igbanugo each scored 11 to give the Fighting Hawks four players in double figures, with the Lakeville, Minn., native knocking down a trio of triples.
It was a foul fest at the Betty for both sides, with 61 combined free throws shot in the contest. Western Illinois sank 28 of its 37 attempts while UND connected on 18-for-24 from the charity stripe.
The pace that UND ended the game on Friday with carried over into tonight’s contest, with the Hawks coming out attacking. The hosts connected on five of its first seven attempts from the field, including a pair of triples, to take an early 12-10 lead at the opening media timeout. Rebraca led the way on both ends for UND with four quick points and a trio of rebounds.
Fouls took control over the next few minutes, with Western Illinois entering the bonus just eight minutes into the game. The early trips to the free throw line allowed the Leathernecks to hit six of their first eight tries and build a 23-22 lead with just over nine minutes to play in the first half.
Sims gave the Hawks a 31-30 lead following a strip and basket, but it was Western Illinois who grabbed momentum over the next few minutes by rattling off the next eight points to jump in front, 38-31, with 4:07 remaining in the first half. Ihenacho halted the run with a triple off a sweet feed from Rebraca before the freshman knocked down another to cut it down to just three, 40-37.
Both teams kept up the strong offensive pace over the final minutes of the half, with WIU carrying a 46-42 lead into the halftime break.
After an early bucket to start the half for WIU, North Dakota came out aggressive with eight straight points to take a 51-48 lead less than two minutes into the second stanza. Rebraca did a lot of the work for the Hawks, who scored seven of the team’s first 10 points of the frame to help spark the hosts.
UND kept attacking the paint on the Leathernecks and forcing the visitors to foul, going 7-of-8 in the first five minutes of play in the frame to open up a 61-55 advantage. Ihenacho capped off the hot start for the Hawks with a drive and finish through contact plus the free throw to give UND its largest lead of the game so far.
The fouls kept up over the opening half of the second period, with both teams entering the double bonus with over 10 minutes to play in the game. That allowed the lead to continuously change hands nearly each ensuing possession, with North Dakota moving in front, 76-75, with 9:42 remaining.
After UND went up by two, it was WIU’s turn to go on a run, scoring 14 of the next 18 points to take an 89-80 lead with just under four to play. Ihenacho halted the scoring spurt with a bucket in the lane, but committed his fifth personal of the evening on the next defensive stand to end his evening with 2:50 to go and UND down by seven.
UND could not close the gap this time, as Western Illinois continued to make from the charity stripe, to hold off the Fighting Hawks by a 99-87 score.
North Dakota hits the road for the penultimate time during conference play for a pair of showdowns against Denver on Feb. 5-6. Friday’s contest will be at 2 p.m. from the Mile High City.
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