GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Sacramento State held on to beat North Dakota 57-53 in a low scoring Big Sky men’s basketball affair Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
UND (18-9, 13-4 BSC) saw its six-game winning streak come to a close and the Hornets (12-16, 9-8 BSC) also dealt the the Fighting Hawks their first league loss at home.
Junior Drick Bernstine led UND with 15 points, while seniors Quinton Hooker and Corey Baldwin scored 12 and 10 points, respectively to give the Fighting Hawks a trio of double-figure scorers.
"We just never got in a rhythm (on offense)," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "I thought we defended really well. I thought we fould and clawed and did our job defensively, but we really played stagnant on offense and didn't do a good job of attacking the paint. That's where we had success at their place (in the first meeting)."
The Hornets got 15 points each from Nick Hornsby and Justin Strings and hit some key second-half 3-pointers and went 15-for-20 from the foul stripe to help get ahead of the Fighting Hawks late in the contest.
After Baldwin knocked down back-to-back triples to put UND up 37-32 with just over 12 minutes to go, the Hornets answered with their first of four treys that proved critical at the end.
Each of the Hornets' 3-pointers trimmed what had grown to four or five point deficit down to one of two before the fourth from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa at the 4:05 mark put his team ahead 48-47. It was their first lead in over eight minutes and they would never trail again.
UND, who didn't go to the foul stripe in the first half, could not take advantage of 10 trips after the break as they only made three and the Fighting Hawks could not get a timely make from the field down the stretch.
Baldwin did make a layup after a steal by Hooker with 24 seconds to go to trim the deficit to 52-51. After Strings made only one of two from the foul line, Hooker had a corner 3-pointer that rimmed out with 13 seconds to play and UND was forced to foul quickly again.
This time Strings would seal the win, knocking down both freebies to make it a four-point contest.
Bernstine went 4-for-4 from the field in the first half to score eight points, but the Hornets found a way to take a 24-23 lead into halftime and hold UND to a season-low, first-half point total.
Hornsby, Strings and Eric Stuteville each had seven boards to pace a 40-30 advantage for Sacramento State on the glass. Bernstine led all players with eight boards.
UND only connected on 4-for-21 from beyond the arc, while the Hornets went 4-for-9 and missed only once in their final five attempts.
The Fighting Hawks fell into a tie for first place with Eastern Washington after the loss, but can clinch the No. 1 seed at next week's Big Sky Tournament in Reno with a win over Portland State on Saturday. A victory would also give UND at least a share of the league's regular season title.
Tip-off against the Vikings is set for 3:05 p.m. CT and UND's four-man senior class of Baldwin, Hooker, Thomas Blake and Devon Pekas will be honored in a special pre-game ceremony.
-- UND --