The basketball season started in earnest in Grand Forks, as North Dakota unofficially started Year 3 of the Sather Project with an exhibition against Mayville State.
As the title states above, it was a bit of a struggle. UND squeaked out a 4 point win against the Comets of Mayville State, an NAIA school 20 miles south of Grand Forks.
Unable to watch, but listened to the radio so not able to go into too much detail, but here is the good and the not so good from the exhibition.
Good and Bad
Mitchell Sueker: When the game started, it didn’t look like Sueker was going to be in this column, he struggled right out the gate, going 2-7 from the field and 2-4 from the free throw line. Missing a lot of the shots he usually makes.
He made it for it and more in the 2nd half. He went 9 of 12 in the 2nd half and 4-5 from the free throw line to score 22 of his team high 28 points. He hit several shots down the stretch that helped UND maintain their lead and had an answer for any Mayville bucket.
UND is looking at their 5 returning from last year to help lead this team while the newcomers get their legs underneath them. More performances like this will go along way to helping that and getting Sueker some love on the post-season awards side.
Ethan Igbanugo: Another returning player also stepped up nicely in the 2nd half in Igbanugo. He had a nice little stat line for the night (11 points on 5-8 shooting with 5 boards and 3 assists), with most of that damage happening in the 2nd half. When Sueker wasn’t getting buckets, it was Igbanugo getting the key ones, including a big jumper with 2:19 to go to put UND up 3. While his main claim is a 3 and D type of player, he certainly can step in and deliver in other areas. Ethan has grown a lot in his time at UND and its great to see the payoff.
Nero at the point: While Nero didn’t score a lot (only scored 2 points with free throws at the end), he did contribute in other areas, leading the team in rebounds (8) and assists (6). Hope that the scoring comes for Nero and he can be a huge factor this season.
They Won: Above all else, UND did win the game.
3 point shooting: One of the things that UND struggled with last year was their 3 point shooting and tonight was no different. 3 of 15 from the 3 point line, including going 1 of 7 in the 2nd half. This is a number that needs to change and fast.
Free throws (1st half): UND went 4-10 from the free throw line in the first half, including 4 misses by guys that are pretty solid free throw shooters. They did go 7-9 in the 2nd half to bounce back but going 11-19 in games isn’t going to win games either.
Droughts: UND didn’t get off to the best of starts, only scoring 3 points by the first media timeout. This is something that got them in trouble last year, where they would go several minutes without scoring too many points and getting behind. Against Mayville, they got away with it. Against other teams? They might be so lucky.
At the end of the day, UND was able to get the win, which is all that really matters in the end. As many of my fellow writers reminded me after the game, there have been many instances where teams struggled and even lost to teams in lower divisions and turned out okay for the regular season.
With that said, I don’t blame anyone who didn’t feel great after listening/watching the game. This is going to be a work in process as the team begin to gel and the newcomers continue to get their feet wet. Leaning into the experience played is going to be so important to start the season. Panoam, Sueker, Igbanugo, Nero, and Danielson are all going to have to be great at certain points of the season until the newcomers are ready to go. The quickest way to remove the bad feeling is to see UND get off to a good start in non-conference.
Real season starts on Nov 9th and it won’t be an easy opponent as UW-Milwaukee comes to town with 5 star phenom Patrick Baldwin Jr ready to start his career.