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Ihenacho tallies career-high 19 in 85-82 overtime win at Denver

Fighting Hawks move to 5-6 in Summit League play; collect second OT victory of the year
TYREE IHENACHO, und mbb
TYREE IHENACHO, und mbb(KVLY)
Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 7:05 PM CST
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DENVER (UND Athletics) - Freshman point guard Tyree Ihenacho scored a career-high 19 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished out three assists and swiped a trio of balls to help lead North Dakota to an 85-82 overtime victory over Denver on Friday afternoon from Hamilton Gymnasium in Denver.

UND (6-14, 5-6 Summit League) built a lead as high as 13 in the first half, but fell down by as many as eight in the second, battled back for its fifth straight win over Denver (1-13, 0-7 Summit League).

Ihenacho continued to dazzle in his rookie season, eclipsing the 10-point mark for the fifth time over his last six games and matching the team lead with seven boards. The Prior Lake, Minn., native also tallied three-or-more assists for the 14th time this season with a trio of dimes and proved why he’s the league’s best at stealing the basketball with his fifth three steal performance.

Limited to only 24 minutes due to foul trouble, Filip Rebraca still managed to score 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting and pull down five rebounds for his 28th consecutive game in double figures. The junior did not play for the final five minutes of regulation or overtime due to fouling out of the contest.

Mitchell Sueker was thrusted into a larger role down the stretch for the visitors following Rebraca’s disqualification and did not disappoint, reaching the 10-point plateau with 12 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes of play. The South Dakota School of Mines transfer was clutch in the final moments of play, knocking down 10-of-11 from the charity stripe to help seal the victory.

The supporting cast also chipped in strong efforts to help UND cross the 80-point mark for the third straight game, with Brady Danielson striking for a season-high nine points on 3-of-4 shooting while Caleb Nero, Ethan Igbanugo and Bentiu Panoam all scored eight points in the win.

North Dakota got the start it wanted on both sides of the ball, holding Denver to just three points through the opening seven minutes of the game and forcing six turnovers to jump out to an early 14-3 lead. Rebraca helped spark the early lead for the visitors, scoring six points and forcing a pair of turnovers by drawing offensive fouls.

The Hawks started to get the three ball going over the next few minutes, with Igbanugo knocking down a pair to keep UND in front by 10, 25-15, with just under eight minutes to play in the frame. Denver started to get its offensive in a bit of a groove, but couldn’t chip the deficit under nine, as Bentiu Panoam drilled the fourth triple of the afternoon for the green and white to extend the advantage right back to 12, 30-18, with five minutes remaining in the half.

Fouls were the story of the opening period once again, with UND committing 12 team fouls and sending the Pioneers to the free throw line to try and cut into the lead. North Dakota was able to get to the line itself, but sank only four of its first 10 attempts to keep the lead at nine, 34-25, with two minutes to go.

The rally continued for Denver as the first half wore down, with the Fighting Hawks struggled to hold onto the basketball and kept sending DU to the charity stripe to allow the Pioneers to bring the lead to just five, 34-29, at the halftime break.

Denver kept it going out of halftime, extending its run to 14 straight and 22 of the next 27 points to take a 43-39 lead about four minutes into the second half, but North Dakota responded. Nero hit a deep three before dishing a slick feed to Rebraca for the jumper to put the Hawks right back in front, 44-43, with 14 minutes to play.

The Pioneers kept pouring it on as the opening portion of the second half continued, extending the lead to as high as eight, 55-47, before a Nero basket and the foul trimmed it back down to six, 55-49, with 11:48 to go, but UND was forced to try and rally with Rebraca on the bench with four fouls.

North Dakota started the claw back with Rebraca on the bench with those four fouls, striking for 10 of the 13 points to jump back in front, 59-58, with just under seven minutes remaining. The junior came back into the game and helped keep the Hawks in front, but was whistled for his fifth personal foul with five minutes left and UND leading by just one, 64-63.

Both teams went back and forth over the next few minutes, with UND taking a lead as high as five in the final minutes, but Denver tied the game with a triple with 16.9 to play to send the game into overtime.

Free throws were the story of the first minutes of the extra session, but North Dakota took an 81-79 lead when Panoam drilled a corner feed off a pass from Seybian Sims with a minute to go before the junior forced a steal on the ensuing possession to send Panoam to the free throw where he put the Hawks up by four, 83-79, with 13 seconds to play.

Following a three-point play by the Pioneers to cut the lead to one, Sueker salted the game away in overtime once again with a pair of makes to give the Hawks the 85-82 win.

North Dakota will go for the weekend sweep and look to get back to the .500 mark in league play on Saturday afternoon against Denver at 1 p.m.

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