After a tough first weekend of Summit Play, UND went down to Tulsa, Oklahoma to take on Oral Roberts. It was another test for UND against a team currently considered to be in the top tier with NDSU and SDSU.
Game 1: North Dakota 72, Oral Roberts 71
News broke before tip that Tyree Ihenacho, their starting Point Guard, was out with an upper body injury. This left UND shorthanded in the guard position and robbed us of a Ihenacho-Abmas matchup that was hyped on the podcast. Ethan Igbanugo stepped into the starting lineup to replace Tyree, while Mitchell Sueker found himself back starting after coming off of the bench the last two games. Despite this: UND did an excellent job in defending the 3, and actually shot better from 3 that ORU. They struggled with Obanor the entire night, who just had is way on the glass, grabbing 18 rebounds and scoring 21 points. Rebraca had a monster 2nd half, scoring 16 of his 24 points in that period. UND had great balance, with 3 players scoring in double figures (Sueker, Igbanugo, Sims) and 8 points from Big G. The play of the night was turned in by Seybian Sims. With the score tied, Max Abmas had the ball, playing for the last shot. With Sims guarding, he managed to pick his pocket and went down the court to try and seal the game with a game winning dunk. Abmas had no choice but to foul, which ended up being a clear path foul. Sims missed the first free throw but knocked down the 2nd. Abmas tried to get a final shot off, only to be stuffed by Rebraca for a big time win.
Game 2: Oral Roberts 74, North Dakota 57
The 2nd game, Oral Roberts came back with a vengeance. The 3 ball was falling early and often in the first half, going 10 of 15 from downtown. Oral Roberts got something they didn’t get in game 1, a bench presence. Mainly in the form of DeShang Weaver. He dropped all of his 15 in the first half and was a big reason for the huge first half lead. UND just seemed a step slow in defending the 3, which was a marked changed from the first night. They did do a better job in the 2nd half, and actually did make a bit of a comeback. However, they couldn’t cash in on a few opportunities throughout the 2nd half that would have really made it close in the end. The offense was a big of a struggle in the 2nd half. They didn’t have the shooting they had in game 1. Nero had a decent game, leading UND with 17 points. It was nice to see him get some points and hopefully he can build off of that. Igbanugo started again and chipped in another 11 points. Max Abmas had 16 points on 6-12 shooting and nailed 4 3’s. Obanor had another double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds. They also had RJ Glasper, who I felt was the best guard of the weekend for ORU, also scoring 14 points. (He is a good looking guard, if he can be a consistent third option for ORU… that’s going to make Abmas and Obanor even more of a nightmare to defend).
-Oral Roberts is a very good team, they are a team that is fully capable of winning the league and representing the Summit come March. They are also a team that still has their issues that teams like SDSU, NDSU, UND, and USD will take full advantage of.
-You will always take splits on the road, especially against the top 3 of the league. Especially down your top point guard.
-Abmas and Obanor should be on the shortlist for POY and 1st Team All-Summit. While he struggled with his shot in his first game, he definitely showed his range in the 2nd one. Obanor was tough on UND all weekend, especially on the glass. I thought he would have gone for a 20+ point, 20+ rebound game on Friday.
-I felt the offense moved a lot more in these two games than they have in a while. Much more cutting, off the ball movement. It was nice to see.
-Rebound was an issue in game 1, not so much in game 2. Got the sense that UND never really felt comfortable in rebounding. Lots of balls that weren’t really secured. Credit Oral Roberts for making it tough the entire weekend by making every rebound a painful experience for UND.
-Rebraca was a beast in game 1, especially in the 2nd half. Dropped 24 points and went back and forth with Obanor in the 2nd half. The 2nd game was a bit of a struggle as he was held to a quiet 11 points. Free throw shooting continues to be an issue, as he went 2-9 for the weekend, several of which that rimmed out. I speak from personal experience that when you are in a slump and you see that, it just makes you more frustrated. He will break out of it sooner rather than later. Still looking for that first double-double of the season from him.
-The argument was made that UND needed more secondary scoring. They definitely got it in game 1. In the Thursday podcast, I mentioned that Ethan Igbanugo was an under the radar player to watch this weekend. Well he stepped up in a starting role and dropped 11 points, including 2 huge back to back 3’s in the 2nd half. Mitchell Sueker also had 11 points on 5-7 shooting. The mentioned Sims had 10 points, including a big time 3 down the stretch. UND needs to get more of this going forward. It doesn’t have to be these 3 all of the time, but they have the capability of doing this.
-Sims has really impressed me with all of the things that he can do. He can do a little bit of everything for UND and really has stepped up in the starting spot since DAE went down. He will be counted on more going forward given the news of today (more on that below). He has a nice looking 3 point shot. UND has had their struggles with JUCOs the last few years, but this one appears to developing into a solid addition.
-Caleb Nero returned his hometown and produced in two different ways in the two games. He lead the team in assists in the first game with 5 and grabbed 5 rebounds, even though the scoring was not there (4 points). The second game was hopefully the first sign that he was ready to bust out of his scoring slump. He dropped 17 points on 6-14 shooting and 3-8 from 3. This was the first time he scored in double figures since Dec 17th. If this is the game that gets him going for UND, that is going to go a long way for coach Sather and company.
-Bentiu Panoam stepped into the role of backup PG and played hard in the minutes he got. I think he played in his role pretty decently given the circumstances. Had 11 points in the 2nd game. Hasn’t gotten many minutes since the first game of the year with the emergence of Ihenacho and Igbanugo, but you never know when your number is going to get called. So you always need to be ready.
-Shoutout to Coach Sather in collection Win #300 in his coaching career
-We have made it to the quarter poll of the season and UND sits at 2-2. I have mixed feelings so far on the season. It seems to fit in this see saw season. On the one hand, UND has shown that they can play and beat some of the better teams in the Summit. On the other hand, we have seen that their 2nd night games in the conference are something that is left to be desired. The Oral Roberts win on the road takes some of the sting out of the Kansas City loss at home.
-News broke today that De’Sean Allen-Eikens was opting out for the rest of the season and was entering the transfer portal. We can go into the analysis of the transfer at a later date, but we hope that DAE is a success wherever he lands up. He had some great moments in UND Green.
-Next week doesn’t get any easier. Its Bison week, and they would love nothing more than to sweep UND on their home court. UND has shown that they can play with the Bison and should have beaten them in Sioux Falls. Of course a lot can change in a month.