RENO, Nev. – Senior Corey Baldwin knocked down a key 3-pointer with just over a minute to play and top-seeded North Dakota advanced to the Big Sky Tournament title game with a 69-64 victory over fourth-seeded Idaho Friday at the Reno Events Center.
Baldwin and sophomore Geno Crandall each scored 16 points to pace four Fighting Hawks (21-9) in double figures. Crandall broke a 63-63 tie with a pair of free throws at the 1:50 mark, then following an empty trip by the Vandals (18-13), Baldwin drained a corner 3-pointer to put a wild win away for UND.
"Our guys found a way to win again," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "It is not always pretty, but we made plays and got rebounds down the stretch when we needed them.
"On that last three by Baldwin, that was Geno passing up a good look for a great look and that's what we've been about all season."
This is the second time UND will appear in the championship game. The Fighting Hawks will take on third-seeded Weber State, who beat second-seeded Eastern Washington 80-72 in the second semfinal of the day.
For the second straight game here in Reno, UND got off to a blazing start from the field, but unlike the quarterfinal-win over Portland State, the Vandals would storm back to create a wild finish.
That 9-for-13 start from the floor allowed UND to open up a 26-9 advantage just over eight minutes into the contest, but Idaho would work that deficit down to six by halftime after the Fighting Hawks cooled off. The Vandals closed the half on an 8-2 run to make it a 37-31 contest at the break.
It was a game of runs in the second half as Idaho converted a 16-2 run into its first lead of the game.
The Vandals' advantage would stand at 50-44 before Crandall and company took control of the game back.
The second-team All-Big Sky performer sparked an 18-1 run with back-to-back baskets and had eight points during that spurt that put UND back up by 11 at 63-52. He also finished eight rebounds and five assists.
Idaho would not go away though and tied the game back at 63-63 thanks to an 11-0 run that spanned more than five minutes.
After Nate Sherwood equaled things with just over two minutes to go, UND held the Vandals without a field goal the rest of the way.
Baldwin's corner trey was the eighth make of the game from beyond the arc for UND, who shot 43 percent from the field, while holding Idaho to a 37 percent clip. Idaho's Victor Sanders led all scoroers with 20 points, but went only 7-for-19 in the contest.
Senior Quinton Hooker and sophomore Conner Avants added 13 a piece for the Fighting Hawks. Avants had 11 of those in the first half and finished 5-for-8 from the field.
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