GRAND FORKS, N.D. – When the dust finally settled after more than three hours of basketball, Utah Valley emerged as the victors over North Dakota, 107-96, in a men's basketball game that will go down in the history books for both programs.
The Wolverines clawed out a win in the four-overtime thriller that featured buzzer-beaters and frantic comebacks in what was the longest game ever played at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Thursday.
“There were a lot of situations where we did well and a lot where we will have to go back and learn from,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “For a young team, I was proud of the way we did not wilt when we could have though. That does not make this one any easier though, because it is a tough loss and a game in my opinion, I think we should have won.
“But, we told our guys this game does not make or break our season. There is a lot of basketball left.”
Senior Jordan Swarbrick scored 20 of his 24 points in the extra sessions to lead the Wolverines (10-8, 2-0 GWC) to their second road win in Great West play, while the Sioux (8-10, 1-1 GWC) saw their three-game winning streak to come to an end.
UVU junior Isaih Williams led all scorers with 30 points, while UND had six players reach double figures led by freshman Aaron Anderson’s (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) career high 19-point output. Anderson went 12-for-14 from the foul line, but the rest of the team went 20-for-40, which would prove to make the difference in the contest.
“The reality of this game is, it came down to foul shots,” Jones said. “You have make to foul shots to when league games either at home or on the road. It is hard to get a ‘W’ when you miss 22 of those.
“Now, we have to rebound from this and come out next week with a chance to win two more important Great West games at home.”
Swarbrick, who was granted a sixth-year of eligibility earlier this season by the NCAA, sank 15-of-17 free shots as the visitors faired much better than the home team, making 35-of-44 attempts (79.5 percent).
Freshman Holton Hunsaker gave UVU its chance to pick up the overtime win by nailing his first field goal of the game with six seconds remaining to make it a 56-56 contest - it was the first tie of the game since a 9-9 tally early in the first half.
The Sioux took control of the contest after the opening six minutes, scoring the next seven points to move ahead 16-9. The home team would keep the lead until Hunsaker’s jumper from just beyond the free throw line at the end of regulation.
Missed opportunities coupled with free throw struggles restricted the Sioux from pulling away as they had numerous chances to put the game out of reach. They held double-digit leads in both halves with the first coming on a driving layup by freshman Troy Huff (Milwaukee, Wis.) in the final minute of the first half. However, UVU senior Justin Baker made the first buzzer-beater of the game when his desperation 3-pointer found nylon to make it a 33-26 lead for UND at the break.
The Wolverines trimmed the Sioux lead to just three at 38-35 seven minutes into the second half when Ben Aird connected on his first 3-point attempt of the season with the shot clock winding down.
The Sioux answered Aird’s trey with a nice little spurt, building their lead back to double-digits over the next six minutes as junior Patrick Mitchell (Des Moines, Iowa) capped an 11-4 run with a pair of free throws.
Aird was not done hitting beyond the arc though as his second trey of the game sparked a 14-3 run over the final 4:54 that Hunsaker capped with his jumper to force overtime.
UND had held Hunsaker, who came in second on the team in scoring at 11.3 ppg, scoreless through the opening 39 minutes of play, but the coaches’ son did his father and teammates a favor. The Sioux still had a chance though as Anderson drove the lane and found Mitchell open at the elbow, but his jumper went just long as the final-horn sounded with the score tied 56-56.
Mitchell would be heard from again though as his putback just before the first-overtime buzzer made it a 64-64 contest to breath life back into the 1,587 fans in attendance.
The second overtime featured another big bucket by Hunsaker, who finished with 13 points, as his triple with under two minutes to play made it a 69-69 contest. Freshman Jamal Webb (Buffalo, N.Y.) worked his way around a UVU defender to put the Sioux ahead 71-69, but a pair of free throws by Swarbrick tied it up with 48 seconds to play and neither team could put in the winning basket after that.
UND had its best chance in the extra periods during the third overtime, holding a seven-point lead with 37 seconds to play, but Swarbrick buried a 3-pointer and after freshman Josh Schuler (Urbana, Ohio) hit one-of-two from the stripe, the veteran finished a layup to put the Wolverines with three.
Anderson calmly sank a pair of freebies to push the lead back to five, but this time Williams had answer from long-range, connecting on a trey with six ticks remaining to make it a 90-88 lead. Senior Chris Clausen (Adelaide, Australia) made one-of-two and fouled Williams on UVU’s next possession to prevent a game-tying attempt from beyond the arc.
Williams made both free throws to cut the deficit to one with three seconds on the clock. Webb had trouble getting the ball inbounds and called a timeout that the Sioux did not have. An administrative technical was assessed to UND and Swarbrick went to the line for two.
This time the senior made only one, tying the game at 91-91 and giving UND, who maintained possession after the technical free throws, one last chance to pull out the victory. Webb’s three-point attempt fell short though, forcing the fourth and final overtime.
The Wolverines carried the momentum into the fourth extra period to post the double-digit victory as Williams and Swarbrick combined to go 20-for-22 from the foul line after regulation.
Brekke and Mitchell both registered double-doubles for the Sioux. Brekke had career highs with 12 points and 15 rebounds, while Mitchell, who fouled out in the third overtime, scored 13 points and pulled down 11 boards. Webb finished with 12 points, 10 of which came after regulation.
Schuler added 11 for the Sioux and Huff, who fouled out in the first overtime, tallied 16. He had 11 points in the first-half, including an electric dunk that sparked an 8-2 run, which put UND in contro until the late run by the Wolverinesl.
Aird was a force during regulation, scoring all 23 of his points before fouling out late in the second half. He also grabbed nine boards. Aird's low-post mate, Geddes Robinson, led all rebounders with a career-high 17 boards as the Wolverines held a slight edge at 54-53 when the final shot was missed.
This was the third quadruple-overtime game in school history for UND after splitting the first two.