GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Quinton Hooker scored 29 points to help deliver North Dakota's first regular season men's basketball conference title in 22 seasons with an 82-73 victory over Portland State. Making it extra special was that it came on Hooker's Senior Day that he celebrated with three classmates in a pre-game ceremony.
Hooker dazzled in his final performance at the Betty notching his 14th 20-plus point scoring game of the season on 10-of-18 shooting from the floor, while adding a career-high six steals. His 3-pointer at the 2:40 mark sparked a 10-3 game-closing run for the Fighting Hawks.
With the win, UND (19-9, 14-4 BSC) will head to Reno, Nevada as the No. 1 seed in the Big Sky Tournament. Hooker's heroics came in front of a season-high 2,870 fans.
"Quinton is such a special player and for us to be able to send those seniors out like this and win a conference championship on Senior Day, you couldn't script it any better," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "
Sophomore Geno Crandall chipped in 21 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds in the winning-effort for the home squad.
Hooker and Crandall had 13 and 12 points, respectively, in the first half, but an 8-0 run by the Vikings to close it trimmed what was once a 10-point deficit down to 42-40 at the break.
The Fighting Hawks overcame 14 first-half turnovers by shooting 63.6 percent from the field. UND started the game by making 14 of its first 18 field goals, but the Vikings caught fire from the 3-point territory to keep within striking distance.
After being held a season-low 53 points in Thursday's loss to Sacramento State, UND remained perfect at 14-0 this season when scoring 80 or more points.
The Vikings regained the lead twice early in the second half, each time on a 3-pointer, but UND had an answer each time.
Senior Corey Baldwin's 3-point play at the 16:20 mark put UND in the lead for good, but the Vikings kept fighting and got within a point after De'Sean Parsons made a layup and was fouled with just under four minutes to play.
He failed to convert the 3-point play, however, and sophomore Cortez Seales would bury a 3-pointer from the left wing on UND's next possession. Hooker backed that up with his second connection from deep to push the lead to five.
PSU could not mount a serious threat after that and Hooker and Baldwin combined for six-straight makes from the foul line in the closing minute to seal the victory that gave UND its first regular season conference title since the 1994-95 team won the North Central Conference.
Seniors Thomas Blake and Devon Pekas checked in late in the game to sub for classmates Hooker and Baldwin, who finished with eight points, to give the four classmates one last special moment at The Betty.
Traylin Farris led the Vikings with 17 points off the bench and Calaen Robinson had 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
The Fighting Hawks play their first game in Reno next Thursday against the winner of No. 8 Portland State-No. 9 Northern Arizona matchup in the Big Sky Conference Tournament.
-- UND --