Balanced attack leads UND past Western Illinois, 83-77

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) -- Marlon Stewart struck for 23 points and Filip Rebraca added 22 to help lead North Dakota past Western Illinois, 83-77, on Saturday night from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks.

UND (10-12, 4-4 Summit League) saw four players score at least 15 points for the first time since Mar. 9, 2017 vs. Portland State and had a pair of 20-point scorers for the third time this season.

Stewart led the way again offensively for the Fighting Hawks, striking for 23 points on 4-of-10 from the field while adding 10 rebounds and six assists to notch his second double-double of the season. The senior has now scored at least 10 points in 15 straight games, tying Quinton Hooker’s streak set in the 2016-17 season.

Rebraca posted his second 20-point game in the last three contests with 22 points and six rebounds, while hitting 7-of-14 from the field and 8-of-11 from the charity stripe. De’Sean Allen-Eikens rebounded from a tough pair of games with a 17-point, nine-rebound performance. The redshirt freshman grabbed five of UND’s eight offensive boards, leading to a 9-3 advantage in second-chance points.

Kienan Walter was the final Fighting Hawk in double figures, building off his career-high 25 points on Thursday, with 15. The senior continued to stroke it from beyond the arc with three triples on four attempts.

UND dominated the battle of the boards, 36-28, to move to 8-5 this season when outrebounding its opponent. The Hawks also shot 48% from the field while holding WIU (5-13, 2-6 Summit League) to 46.8% to remain perfect in league play when shooting a higher percentage than their foe (3-0).

Both teams hit from distance, with the Leathernecks hitting 10-of-20 (50%) and UND hitting 9-of-17 (52.9%). The charity stripe was a big difference in the game, however, as the Hawks sank 26-of-33 (78.8%) while WIU only earned 10 trips to the line and hit nine.

It was a tale of two halves when it came to taking care of the basketball, as UND committed eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes. The final 20 was much better for the hosts, turning it over twice and forcing four WIU giveaways.

Allen-Eikens, who entered Saturday just 2-of-22 from distance in conference play, drilled a pair of threes and finished at the rim through contact to help give the Fighting Hawks a 15-9 lead just beyond the five-minute mark of the opening half. Stewart helped the hosts stay in the lead through the midway portion of the stanza with back-to-back threes and a sweet dish to Brady Danielson to put the green and white up, 28-22, with 7:44 to play in the half.

Webster and Stewart continued to go shot-for-shot as the half wore on, with the Leatherneck hitting six of his first seven shots from the field and Stewart sinking five from the charity stripe to put both in double figures with 13 and 11, respectively. Despite the threes raining down inside Betty, UND maintained their advantage, 35-29, entering the final media timeout of the frame.

The scoring slowed down over the final four minutes of the half, with neither team hitting a bucket until the final seconds when Webster capped off his strong period with a bucket at the horn to send UND to the locker room leading only by three, 35-32.

After ending the first half scoreless for over four minutes, UND came out with a bang to begin the second. The Hawks scored 13 straight points in the opening two minutes to open up a 48-32 advantage. Stewart was all over the floor for the hosts during the run, dishing out four assists and grabbing three rebounds to help UND grow the lead. The three-point shot was vital during the run, with Billy Brown and Walter each draining one to bring the 1,585 fans to their feet.

Western Illinois started to climb back into the game as the half wore on, cutting the deficit to under 10, 59-51, with 10:37 to play. The Leathernecks kept up the pressure entering the final nine minutes of the game, hitting four triples in their first six attempts to cut the lead to just five, 61-55, with just eight minutes to go.

Rebraca took over in the post, scoring six straight points, including drawing a foul on one finish, to push the advantage back to 10, 69-59, with just over five minutes to play. Western Illinois kept pushing, trimming the deficit to five late in the contest, but the league’s top free-throw shooting team held off the charge for the 83-77 win.

North Dakota returns to action on Thursday night at Purdue Fort Wayne as the Fighting Hawks go for the season sweep over the Mastodons.