SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Conner Avants scored a career-high 26 points and North Dakota picked up its first Big Sky road win of the season with a 90-73 victory over Sacramento State on Thursday. Avants went 12-for-16 from the field and a game after not making a 3-pointer for the first time in its Division I history, the Fighting Hawks drilled 12 in the win over the Hornets (6-24, 3-14 BSC).
The victory guarantees that UND will play in the opening game of next week's Big Sky Tournament in Reno on Tuesday as the No. 8 or No. 9 seed.
The visitors broke open a tight contest with a 12-0 run late in the first half and withstood a hot start by the Hornets after the break to secure the win.
"We did a tremendous job of sharing and moving the ball and Conner was the beneficiary of that all night," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "Defensively, I thought we played at a high level at times and we did a great job of rebounding tonight, which we knew would be a key for us."
Junior Geno Crandall scored 17 of his 19 points after the break and had a career-high six steals to go with seven assists.
The Hornets opened up the second half hot from the floor making 8-of-10 to start, but could only trim their 11-point halftime deficit down to seven before Crandall and Dale Jones hit back-to-back triples to stretch UND's lead back to double figures midway through the stanza.
UND also got a boost from a pair of sophomores off the bench as Billy Brown and Kienan Walter both scored 12 points. Walter went 4-for-4 from deep, while Brown went 3-for-7.
Junior Cortez Seales rounded out five double-figure scores for the Fighting Hawks with 15 points.
The Fighting Hawks started 8-for-11 from the field and Avants had five of those field goals in the opening 10 minutes, but the visitors held just a 19-17 lead at the midway point.
UND would push its lead to 23-17, but the Hornets pulled off their second 7-0 run of the half to take a brief lead at 24-23.
The Fighting Hawks responded with that big run and would outscore the Hornets 19-7 over the final 5:50 of the half to take a 42-31 advantage into the lockerroom.
Avants finished with 16 first-half points, while Seales added 11, including a jumper that fell through right before the halftime-buzzer. UND's bench also provided 11 first-half points as Walter buried a pair of 3-pointers and Billy Brown added five points.
Avants and Seales both added a team-high seven rebounds as UND held a 30-27 edge in that category.
UND wraps up the regular season with its final game as a Big Sky member on the road Saturday at Portland State. Tip-off against the Vikings is set for 3 p.m. CT.
-- UND --