Icy North Dakota Cools Down T-Bird Men
Stevenett, who came into the game averaging 18.1 points per game, 19.9 in conference games, hit just two of 15 field goal attempts in seeing his streak of 23 consecutive games in double figures come to an end. He did, however, co-lead the team with nine rebounds, along with Jaren Jeffery, who posted a career-high.
SUU dipped to 11-18 overall and 8-12 in Big Sky play with the loss while UND improved to 12-8 in conference play and evened its record at 15-15 overall.
The Thunderbirds now must wait to see what happens in the rest of the Big Sky to see if they qualify for next week's tournament. SUU needs Montana to beat Northern Arizona and have Weber State defeat Eastern Washington to guarantee a spot.
Southern Utah struggled from the field, making just 7-of-31 shots in the first half and 21-of-66 overall and North Dakota wasn't much better, connecting on 20-of-56 shots.
"They were physical with [Stevenett] but it's nothing he hasn't seen all year," SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. "He's been bodied against the best defenders all year. He scored 29 in the first game (at Gonzaga) and everybody's taken notice since that time. He had a couple of shots that normally go down for him, but he's bound to have an off night once in a while, I just wish it hadn't been tonight."
"Offensively we struggled tonight across the board," Robinson pointed out. "We shot 32 percent as a team and the ball just didn't go down for us. North Dakota had a lot of emotion on senior night and a lot of credit goes to them. They played extremely hard, got some timely turnovers, some timely rebounds and did a nice job executing in transition off our turnovers."
"For us it was a good effort," Robinson noted. "We've played three games in a week with an early game today. Our guys came ready to play and we got some gutsy efforts from a lot of guys, we just didn't have shots go down, unfortunately."
"I thought our defensive effort was pretty good, we got nine steals, the most we've had all year and they didn't shoot a very good percentage either," he added.
Both teams weathered lengthy scoreless droughts in the first half. After taking a 5-2 lead SUU went from the 16:49 mark until 12:40 without a basket, allowing UND go to up 10-5 before Jaren Jeffery finally scored to end the dry spell.
Jamal Webb hit two free throws to stake UND to a 12-7 lead but SUU then held North Dakota scoreless for nearly five minutes and built a 14-12 advantage on an A.J. Hess 3-pointer. UND got back on the board with 7:42 remaining in the period when Webb hit a three and went on to take a 28-24 lead at halftime.
Hess hit a jumper to open the second half then Jeffery scored inside to tie the game at 28-28 but the Thunderbirds couldn't take a lead in the second half. Each team hit one of two free throws, then Lenny Antwi hit a 3-pointer to give UND a 32-29 lead.
North Dakota slowly pulled away, building a 47-37 lad on a Josh Schuler 3-pointer and eventually built a 13 point advantage but the Thunderbirds rallied, getting within 57-52 on a 7-0 run that included a jumper by Cal Hanks, a Hess three and a jumper by Jayson Cheesman with 2:44 to go.
The Thunderbirds misfired on two of their next three shot attempts, however, and North Dakota got back-to-back jumpers from Webb, then hit 4-of-6 free throws to push the advantage to 65-54 with 42 seconds to go. Hess hit a three and Jeffery a short jumper to pull SUU back within seven with 20 seconds to play but the Thunderbirds simply ran out of time.
Webb led UND with 19 points, nine rebounds and rive assists, while Schuler finished with 16 points and Troy Huff scored 15 points.
-- SUU --