Strong defense boosts USD past UND, 70-56

GRAND FORKS, N.D. – South Dakota used strong defense to stymie the University of North Dakota men’s basketball team, 70-56, on Wednesday evening at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in the first conference matchup between the two schools since 2011.

UND (8-13, 2-6 Summit League) was held to just 56 points, its lowest in conference play this season and fewest since the Fighting Hawks were held to the same number at UT Rio Grande Valley on Dec. 5.

Marlon Stewart led all scorers with 22 points, including 18 in the second half, to help UND nearly rally from a 17-point deficit during the final period. The junior has now recorded his sixth conference game, including four straight, scoring in double figures as he continues to average over 18 points per game in his Summit League career. Stewart also finished with seven rebounds, all on the defensive side, four assists, and a steal.

Cortez Seales was the final Fighting Hawk to score in double figures, tallying 10 points and three rebounds in a team-high 38 minutes of action. The senior has now scored 10+ points in 15 of 21 contests this season.

Three Coyotes (9-11, 3-4 Summit League) crossed the 10-point plateau in the win; led by Brandon Armstrong off the bench and Trison Simpson, who each scored 13 points for the visitors. Standout sophomore Stanley Umude, who had struck for at least 20 points in four straight games, was held to just 12 points.

Neither team could get a shot from distance to fall, as both sides finished with only three makes from beyond-the-arc. South Dakota’s .176 shooting clip (3-for-17) from deep was its second lowest this season as well as UND’s .214 percentage (3-for-14) marked its second lowest in 2018-19.

South Dakota also claimed the rebounding battle, 34-30, but UND’s Filip Rebraca was the game’s leading board grabber with 11. The double-digit rebounds by the freshman marks the third time this season he has accomplished the feat.

The Coyotes grabbed control of the contest from the opening tip, scoring 15 of the game’s first 19 points to build an early 15-4 lead with just 6:43 gone in the contest. After UND had shaved the deficit to single digits on an and-1 play by Seales, the Hawks were held without a point for nearly six minutes as USD restored its double-digit lead, 24-13, with just over five minutes remaining in the first half.

South Dakota was able to continue to frustrate the UND offense, holding the Hawks to just 20 points in the opening 20 minutes to carry a 32-20 advantage into the halftime break. The 20 points marked the second-lowest output by UND in a first half this season, trailing only the 18 at UTRGV on Dec. 5.

After the Coyotes pushed their lead to 17, the largest of the contest, during the opening moments of the second half, UND started to chip away with strong drives to the basket and working its way to the charity stripe. An 8-0 run by the Hawks closed the gap to single digits once again before a pair of makes at the line by Kienan Walter and a jumper by Stewart in the paint cut the lead to just six, 53-47, and brought the Betty crowd to its feet with 5:29 to play.

The six-point deficit was as close as the Fighting Hawks would come, however, as South Dakota matched the hosts shot-for-shot before closing the game on a 9-2 run to close out the 70-56 victory.

North Dakota will enjoy some much-needed time off after three games in seven days as UND will not return to game action until next Thursday (Jan. 31) at Western Illinois.