Signed, Seales, Delivered: Seales’ career night guides UND past Purdue Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (UND Athletics) -- On a night that was meant to celebrate the most decorated player in Purdue Fort Wayne history, it was Cortez Seales who stole the spotlight as the senior erupted for a career-high 32 points to help North Dakota defeat the Mastodons, 88-82, on Thursday evening in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Seales eclipsed his previous best of 27 points, set in his debut vs. Minnesota Morris as a freshman in 2015, with a game-high 32 points on a career-best 14 made buckets while also adding six rebounds, four assists, a block, and a steal in 34 minutes of action. The senior becomes the first player since Geno Crandall in last season’s opener vs. Troy to score 30-plus points in a game while also extending his career-best streak of scoring 10-or-more to eight straight games.

Since Jan. 23 vs. South Dakota, Seales is averaging 18 points per game over those eight contests and was joined by Aanen Moody matching his career high in both points and 3-pointers made, scoring 21 on seven makes from distance in the win. The redshirt freshman has now scored 42 points in a pair of contests vs. the Mastodons (17-13, 9-6 Summit League).

Marlon Stewart was the final player to reach double figures for UND (12-16, 6-9 Summit League), scoring 10 points, dishing out eight assists, and grabbing four rebounds. Kienan Walter, fresh off a career-high 21 points vs. Denver last Saturday, just missed his first-career double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds in a team-high 36 minutes. The 10 boards match a career best set in January vs. Western Illinois, and led all players.

John Konchar was the story for the Mastodons, as he became the first player in the history of NCAA Division I men’s basketball to accumulate over 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 500 assists, and 200 steals in a career. The senior crossed the 2,000-point plateau in the first half with a 3-pointer, finishing the contest with 27 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists, and two blocks. Jarred Godfrey and Matt Weir each tallied 12 points off the bench to finish as the trio in double figures for the hosts.

After a back-and-forth start to the game, Purdue Fort Wayne started to pull away in the middle of the frame with a 10-0 spurt to turn a 19-16 deficit into a 26-19 advantage. UND slowly chipped away at the deficit as the half wore on, cutting it down to just four, 46-42, on a Conner Avants steal and finish, but the Mastodons ended the half with a Cameron Benford jumper to carry a 48-42 lead into the halftime break.

The second half, however, was a different story. UND came out firing to begin the stanza, outscoring the Mastodons, 25-6, over the first eight minutes of the period to build a game-high 17-point lead. Moody and Seales were dynamic for the Fighting Hawks during the spurt, with the redshirt freshman draining four of his seven triples and the senior adding nine points of his own to help push the visitors in front.

Purdue Fort Wayne would not go away quietly, however, responding with a 10-0 run to cut the deficit down to just five, 78-73, with just under eight minutes to play. Over the final seven minutes, the Mastodons would trim the UND lead to four on a trio of occasions, but Seales had an answer for every Purdue Fort Wayne bucket as the senior scored the final 10 points for the Hawks over that span to seal the huge victory.

The defense also proved vital for UND over those final seven minutes, holding the Mastodons to just four makes on their final 11 attempts from the field. Konchar was also limited to just two points and a turnover during that span.

North Dakota will close out the regular season on Saturday afternoon in Vermillion, S.D. with a road showdown against the Coyotes. The contest, slated for a 3:30 p.m. start, will most likely have major implications on the seedings for the Summit League Men’s Basketball Tournament.