SDSU defeats UND, 78-74, in conference thriller

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – The University of North Dakota men’s basketball team gave the three-time defending Summit League champion South Dakota State all it could handle on Wednesday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, but ultimately fell just short, 78-74, in the first conference matchup between the two foes since 2004.

After trailing by as many as 13 in the second half, North Dakota (8-11, 2-4 Summit League) rallied to take the lead at the midway point on the frame, but a late South Dakota State (15-6, 5-1 Summit League) run pushed the Jackrabbits to victory.

Entering the final minute trailing by five, 77-72, the Fighting Hawks trimmed the deficit to two on a drive and basket by Cortez Seales before great help defense from Ethan Igbanugo and Marlon Stewart forced an offensive foul by the Jacks, giving the possession back to the hosts with 22 seconds to play.

Unfortunately, a three-point attempt from Seales came up just short as SDSU was able to collect the rebound and ice the game from the charity stripe.

All-American Mike Daum paced the Jackrabbits with a game-high 34 points and 21 rebounds, recording the 44th double-double of his career. The senior finished with 19 points and 12 boards through just 20 minutes of action to tally the feat before halftime for just the fourth time in his career. David Jenkins and Skyler Flatten joined his teammate in double figures, tallying 20 and 10 points respectively.

Despite the trio reaching double figures, UND played strong defensively by holding the other four Jackrabbit players to just a combined 14 points. The Hawks also held the Jacks under their season averages in both shooting percentage (50.5% season average, 48.3% tonight) and three-point percentage (42.0% season average, 31.8% tonight), but the 20-1 differential in trips to the line proved to the difference.

Marlon Stewart continued to torture Summit League opponents during his career, scoring 19 points, all in the second half, grabbing five rebounds, dishing five assists, and grabbing a steal for UND. The junior, who was limited to just 23 minutes due to foul trouble, is now averaging 18.4 points per game in nine contests against league foes.

Cortez Seales finished with 18 points on a career-high 19 field goal attempts while also matching his previous career best with seven helpers, playing a full 40 minutes for the first time in his career. Filip Rebraca was a spark off the bench for the second straight game as well, hitting 7-of-9 from the field to score 15 points and adding six rebounds.

North Dakota came out of the gates firing, scoring the game’s first seven points to quickly build a 7-0 lead. The advantage, which proved to the largest of the night for the hosts, held for the first 14 minutes of the stanza before the Jackrabbits used a 6-0 run to take their first lead of the game, 23-21, with just over six minutes to play in the half.

SDSU extended its lead to as high as 11 in the first half, but carried a 41-31 lead into the locker room after a Daum bucket in the closing seconds.

The Jacks pushed their advantage to 13, 49-36, just moments into the second half, but the Fighting Hawks began to chip away at the deficit as the stanza wore on. After four straight triples by Stewart, Billy Brown, and Aanen Moody cut the lead down to just three, Rebraca began to take over down low. The freshman scored an easy two at the rim before flying in for a ferocious slam over the All-American Daum, sending the 1,880 fans into a frenzy and forcing a SDSU timeout with just a 53-52 lead.

Moody and Stewart added back-to-back threes again to push the Hawks in front, 58-55, before the Jacks responded with a spurt of their own to restore their eight-point cushion with just over four minutes to play.

The back-and-forth affair continued, but SDSU survived the late push by the Fighting Hawks to hold on for the 78-74 victory.

North Dakota returns to action on Saturday afternoon with a contest against in-state rival North Dakota State from Fargo at 2 p.m. Fans can catch the action live on MidcoSN.