On November 1st, UND struggled to a 4 point win against an NAIA Mayville State squad.
On November 15th, UND came back from 14 points down to topple a solid Montana Griz squad.
Shows how much can change in 2 week huh?
UND got their first win of the season at home with a 79-77 takedown of the Griz.
Lets get into the details:
1st Half: Montana 44, UND 42
For two teams that struggled hitting shots, it certainly didn’t seem like they were having issues in the 1st half. Montana shot 60% from the floor and went 16-17 from the free throw line. UND shot 54% from the floor and went 7-11 from 3 in the first half.
Brandon Whitney started strong for Montana, but was helped by Derrick Carter-Hollinger off of the bench, who hit some big shots when he was given the opportunity.
Matt Norman stepped into the starting lineup and hit 3 3’s to help UND in the first half, and Sueker, despite foul trouble, managed to chip in 9 points of his down. The big story of the half, however, was the play of Brendan Howard, the 6’5 transfer from MSU-Billings. He had 13 of his 18 points in the first half, including hitting back to back 3s in a time where UND needed offense and hit what could have been the last shot of the 1st half (before Brady Danielson made a great play to steal the inbound and quickly hit a turnaround shot to beat the buzzer).
Despite all of this, the reason the Griz lead was the dominance at the free throw line, hitting 16-17 from the free throw line, compared to 7-13 for UND. Despite getting them in foul trouble, UND was unable, at least in the first half, to take full advantage of the bonus situation. Nevertheless, they were in the ballgame.
2nd Half: UND 79, Montana 77 (37-33 UND half score)
After a hot first half of shooting between the two teams, it would be natural for both teams to cool off a little bit. It was the case for UND to start. The Griz ripped off an 11-2 run to start the half to take a 55-44 lead with 14:26 to go. UND did manage to crawl back into the game behind the play of Howard and Bruns, to cut it back to an 8 point deficit with 10:16 to go. At this point, Whitney decided to take the game over again for the Griz, leading a personal 7-0 run to extend the lead to 69-55 with 7:54 to go. At this point, you wouldn’t blame any UND fan to think that it was over.
Well it wasn’t. UND started getting back into the game. They went on an 8-0 run to cut the lead to 6 behind Sueker and Bruns, but it was at that time when Caleb Nero started getting involved in the scoring. After a Whitney jumper to break the run, Nero started to get to and live on the free throw line, making 4 in a row. He then had a big time assist on a Sueker 3 to cut the lead down to one. Then on the next possession, Nero got back to the line to cash in 2 more free throws to give UND the lead with 2:55 to go. A 19-4 run in 5 minutes.
Whitney wasn’t about to be denied as he hit another jumper to regain the lead for the Griz. Howard got to the free throw line and made 1 out of 2 attempts to tie the game at 75. The next possession could have been the defensive play of the game. What looked like to be another layup by Whitney was denied by Paul Bruns, who blocked his shot, which lead to another Nero bucket to take a two point lead with 51 seconds to go. On the next possesion, Whitney hit a 10 foot contested jump shot to tie it up at 77. Then, after a UND timeout, ball inbounded to Nero and waited to make his move. With 10 seconds left he started the offense and then attacked and hit a contested layup and got fouled with 3 seconds to go. He missed the free throw, leaving UND up 2. A half-court heave hit the top of the backboard and UND got their comeback win.
-Brendan Howard: During the broadcast (and a post-game quote from Sather), it was mentioned that Howard was going to be one of those guys playing city league in his 50s and still getting buckets. He is just a basketball player and that is a glowing compliment. He gave UND great minutes off of the bench, scoring 18 points in 19 minutes on 7-11 shooting, going 2-3 from 3. You know he wanted to ball out against the Griz, given he was from Montana. He also wasn’t afraid to bang on the defensive end against the Griz post players. If he can give UND that going forward, he will carve himself a nice role on this squad.
-Caleb Nero: There could have been a case for Nero to be on the bad part of this list. For 34 minutes, Nero was struggling on the offensive side of the basketball shooting. Then the last 6 minutes happened. Nero scored 12 out his 14 points in that stretch and just killed it on the free throw line. His defense on the other end helped to slow down Brandon Whitney. Of course, he had the play of the game, attacking the basket to score the game winner with 3 seconds to go. 8-9 from the free throw line, just solid work. This is the version of Nero that UND is going to need. He certainly is able to fill the stat sheet in other areas, but he needs to take over the game like that more.
-2nd half free throw shooting: 15-17 in the 2nd half. Awesome.
-Rebounding: Outrebounding the Griz? Doesn’t really happen when UND plays them. 2 games in a row where they have won on the boards.
-Shooting: Better numbers from the field and from the 3 point line. Nice to see the looks fall.
-Brady Danielson end of first half: Before the Nero winner, Danielson may a play that certainly will make the end of the season highlights. After UND made a layup with 3 seconds to go, with Montana inbounding the ball, Brady stole the ball on the baseline, and hit a turnaround jumpshot that beat the buzzer! It was quite the play to end a solid first half for UND.
-Igbanugo Injury: As announced before tip that Ethan Igbanugo suffered a knee injury in practice, so he missed the game against the Griz. Hope to have him back soon to give UND another experienced shooter on the floor
-2nd half Defensive Rebounding: While the rebounding was solid, there were some concerns in the 2nd half where UND allowed the Griz to get multiple offensive rebounds, where in one possession, the Griz got 3 offensive rebounds. A couple of them where there was 4 UND players around and the Griz player would grab the rebound. This is something that can’t continue going forward.
Brandon Whitney is the real deal. Montana has a legacy of great guard play and he certainly is on the track to being the other.
This was a very nice win for UND and the Summit League, especially when going up against a similar one bid league in the Big Sky. The team showed some great grit to come back and get the win and played very well for most of the game. Hopefully this is the launching pad for even better things for UND going forward. UND heads to Boca for the weekend to participate in a tournament with Florida Atlantic, UT Martin, and Troy.