UND and Kansas City clashed in their conference opener in Grand Forks. This was the first time these two teams have met in the Summit and it was a true definition of a rock fight. Both teams walked away with a win. UND on Saturday and Kansas City on Sunday
Game 1 Results: UND 52, Kansas City 45
If you were interested in a game full of offense, then this was not the game for you. The defensive effort that both teams put on the floor was exceptional. Kansas City managed to push UND out to the perimeter in the 1st half and prevented penetration to their bigs and were PHYSICAL! UND managed to draw offensive fouls and some exceptional individual defense played by Tyree Ihenacho against Brandon McKissic. Where the game was won was at the free-throw line. My HS Basketball coach typically had in his game plan as a team goal to make more free throws than the other team attempts. UND did just that: 22-27 from the free-throw line. Kansas City 7-14 from the line. There was your difference. Clutch free throws down the stretch helped UND seal the first conference win.
Game 2 Results: Kansas City 77, North Dakota 53
The Roos stuck to their game plan of playing physically on the defensive end. This time it took its toll on UND and they were unable to convert from the free-throw line. UND didn’t seem to want to penetrate the defense at all. The defensive effort started falling apart in the 2nd half as the Roos became white-hot from the field. Brandon McKissic busted out in the 2nd half to put this game away from the Roos. Josiah Allick was very impressive from the jump, outscoring UND for a good chunk of the first half… by himself. He is a really nice piece for the Roos to build around. It wasn’t a great game if you were a UND fan, and to be honest, I’m being nice about it.
-This is my first look at Kansas City since they left the Summit League. They play a style of basketball that is going to be very tough on back to back nights, especially on the defensive end. Brandon McKissic showed what he could do in the 2nd half of the 2nd game. Josiah Allick was the Roos best player this weekend, he did a great job in battling against Rebraca and was dominant in the 2nd game, dropping 23 points. Getting Nesbitt Jr. back is going to be helpful. If they can get some offense to match their defense, they can climb in the standings.
-If you can describe UND at this point, the perfect model would be a see-saw. One game they are up, one game they are down. They did a good job in handling the Kansas City pressure and going to the line and knocking down their shots. 2nd game was a completely different story as they just were overwhelmed by their defense. Credit to the Roos for sticking with it, but UND had several chances to attack… this time however the free throws weren’t falling. It’s hard to really project any confidence in the team right now with the inconsistency. We saw what they can do when they are playing well, but we also know what happens when they aren’t. Hoping that some light bulbs can start to click for some of the players.
-Rebraca was the reliable scorer for UND, as he had to deal with the physicality of Kansas City. He scored around his average (14 points in Game 1 and 16 points in Game 2. Shot the ball decently in both games but there are some issues at the free-throw line. I have a breakdown of what he has done at the free-throw line so far this year
First 5 games: 18/25 72%
Last 6 games: 10/28 35.7%
I’m not quite sure what has happened since the NDSU game but these are great. He shot 66.7% last year and is currently shooting 52% from the line. I know he is capable of shooting better and I know he will get it figured out soon. Turnovers were an issue in the 1st game due to the double team, but honestly, he is the least of UNDs concerns right now.
-One concern, leveled by some UND fans and some outsider observers, is that there isn’t that consistent 2nd scorer so far this year. Someone who can step in and say: I will give you 12-15 points a night, every night. Now, injury to Allen-Eikens hasn’t made things any better because he would have been the guy to take that role (more on him in a minute) but there has to be a person or who that can step up and be consistent on the scoring end.
-DAE returned from injury and played in both games, he definitely looked better in game 2 and flashed some of the old DAE from last year. This is going to be big going forward for UND. The more he can get back to 100%, the better off UND is going to be. Can’t say for certain, but I think sooner, rather than later, he will be returning to the starting lineup. Hope he can knock down some outside shots… speaking of
-UND is still looking for some outside shooting. 6-31 from 3 combined in the two games and one of those was a desperation I need to chuck it up shot by Ihenacho that went in. This cannot continue. UND needs to find someone to step up and knock down shots consistently. 28% from 3 this year so far. Goodness!
-UND changed their starting lineup, going with Urbonavicius at the 4 spot and moving Sueker to the bench. Given how G was playing, it wasn’t a bad move. However, Kansas City was no friend to Big G as he struggled in both games.
-2 players that stepped up in game 1 was Ethan Igbanugo and the other Mitchell Sueker. Igbanugo has been the most consistent player off the bench for UND this year and quite possibly had his best game of the season, dropping 11 points on 3-5 shooting and making all 4 of his free throws. He was able to attack the Roos defense. 2nd game was a bit more of a struggle, going 1-6 from the field and 0-3 from deep. Sueker took his assignment to the bench well (although let’s be serious, he still played starter type minutes in both games), scoring 11 points and grabbed 7 boards, all of his points were at the free-throw line. 2nd game he didn’t get to the line, but there was one promising thing. He made a 3 pointer and it looked like his old shooting stroke.
-I did like that both Sather and Rebraca took responsibility for that loss on Sunday, they both admitted that UND was out-toughed and they would work on not letting that happen again.
Looking ahead for UND, things don’t get easier. They head down to Tulsa this week to take on a tough Oral Roberts squad, then back home for the arch-rival NDSU, then on the road to SDSU. You have the top 3 squads in the power rankings and 4 of those 6 are on the road. If the consistency is going to come, it has to come soon.