Gritty mentality leads UND past Oral Roberts, 74-68

Source: MGN

GRAND FORKS, N.D. (UND Athletics) – Down its potential all-league center, facing off against one of the best rebounding teams in the nation, and looking to get back to .500, North Dakota grinded out a 74-68 win over Oral Roberts on Thursday evening from the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

UND (11-13, 5-5 Summit League) saw four players reach double figures, including a pair of 20-point scorers, to record its ninth win at home over its last 10 tries.

Despite a 31-point outburst from Deondre Burns, the Fighting Hawks held all but one other Golden Eagle (12-11, 5-5 Summit League) to single digit points and just 4-of-15 from three.

Marlon Stewart was all over the floor once again for UND in the win, striking for 20 points on 7-of-12 shooting, dished out six assists, and grabbed a pair of rebounds despite playing the second half with three fouls. The senior has now reached double figures in 17 straight games and tallies his third straight 20-point outing.

De’Sean Allen-Eikens may have turned in his most complete performance of his young career with 20 points, four rebounds, and an assist. After a tough start from three in conference play, the redshirt freshman sank all three of his triples on Thursday night to register his second 20-point game of the year.

While he wasn’t the most lethal from downtown, Kienan Walter was still effective from the field with a 6-for-13 night for 19 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and a pair of steals.

Gertautas Urbonavicius made his first-career start in place of Filip Rebraca, who was sidelined with an injury, and reached double figures with 10 points on 4-of-5 from the field and added four rebounds to finish as the final player with at least 10 points for the Hawks.

Despite ORU outshooting the Hawks, the hosts hit 11 threes on 27 attempts to move to 4-1 in league play when hitting eight-or-more triples. Both teams finished with 30 rebounds and ORU won the turnover battle, 15-14.

Oral Roberts took advantage of UND’s lack of size in the early going, scoring six of its first 10 points inside the painted area to take a 10-7 lead at the game’s first media timeout. The hosts turned to the shots from deep to match the intensity from the Golden Eagles, with Walter and Davids Atelbauers each draining one to even the game up at 10 with just under 10 minutes to go in the first half.

The defense really tightened for both sides over the next three minutes, with UND taking a 15-14 lead with 7:40 to play in the stanza after Walter connected on all three of his attempts from the charity stripe. The defensive tenacity of the Hawks showed during that stretch, forcing seven ORU turnovers and holding the Golden Eagles to just four points over an eight-minute span to build the lead.

UND woke up on offense as well, outscoring the Golden Eagles, 13-5, to build a 28-19 lead with just over three minutes to play in the frame. The three ball was big in the run, with Stewart, Walter, and Allen-Eikens each hitting one to give the Hawks their biggest lead of the first half.

Oral Roberts answered back with a run of its own thanks to turnovers and foul trouble. With Stewart on the bench due to a trio of fouls, including two on the offensive side, the visitors responded with eight of the final nine points of the first half to cut the lead to just two, 29-27, at the halftime break.

Out of halftime, ORU continued its strong play from the end of the opening frame to take an early lead, but the Hawks answered with six straight, capped off by a three from Stewart, to put the hosts back in front, 39-36, at the under-16 media timeout.

The back-and-forth play continued through the opening portion of the second half, but the threes started falling in bunches for the Hawks to push the hosts in front by 10, 60-50. Stewart was all over the court during the run for UND, having a hand in five of the last six baskets to help spark the barrage from three-point land. Once again, however, ORU answered the run with another spurt to cut the game to just three, 64-61, with 3:52 to play.

Down the stretch, it was Stewart with a big bucket and a pair of forced traveling violations on ORU that put the hosts up, 67-63, with 1:20 to play. It was Allen-Eikens that sealed the win with a huge offensive putback off his own rebound, followed by a board on the other end that led to a breakaway slam to send the 1,372 fans home happy with a 74-68 win.

North Dakota returns to action on Saturday against South Dakota at 2 p.m. from the Betty.