GRAND FORKS, N.D. – Northern Arizona got the revenge it was looking for on Saturday at The Betty, edging North Dakota 74-72 in overtime to earn a season split with the Big Sky newcomer. UND had rallied in Flagstaff from a 22-point deficit to earn an 81-79 road win three weeks ago.
This one was just as intense down the stretch. Junior Aaron Anderson finished with 24 points and made a trio of 3-pointers in the extra session for the home team, but the Lumberjacks (10-16) found a way to scrape out a two-point win to improve to 7-9 in Big Sky play, while the loss drops UND (11-14) to 8-8 in conference action.
The backcourt of Gabe Rogers and Dewayne Russell carried NAU to the victory. Russell forced overtime with five points in the final minute of regulation, including a layup with 10 seconds left to tie it at 63-63.
Then, Rogers hit what would prove to be the decisive basket with just over a minute to play in overtime to put his team up by three. Rogers matched Anderson’s 24 points, while Russell scored 21 after only getting seven in the home loss to UND.
Junior Troy Huff registered a double-double for the second straight game, scoring 19 points and pulling down 11 rebounds, but the Lumberjacks held him scoreless in the final 12 minutes of regulation and the five-minute overtime period.
“We let this one slip away,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “We can’t turn the ball over 21 times and expect good things to happen, but give Northern Arizona credit for finding a way to force overtime and get this victory. Both teams played hard and it’s a tough way to come out on the losing end.”
Northern Arizona led by as many as 10 points in the first half after a 3-pointer by Rogers put the visitors ahead 19-9. UND would surge back into the lead after a 14-0 run as the Lumberjacks went nearly six minutes without scoring to pull ahead 23-19.
UND would take a 31-30 lead into halftime and push that advantage to 35-30 in the opening minute of the second half thanks to four quick points by Huff. That would be the largest lead of the game for UND as the remainder of the stanza was a back-and-forth affair.
The lead changed 20 times through the 45 minutes of basketball and the score was tied on 11 different occasions.
The tenth tie came on Russell’s driving layup with 10 seconds remaining as UND could not hold on to a late what was a 61-58 lead with just over three minutes to play.
Turnovers plagued the home team in this one as UND committed 21 for the game, while forcing NAU into 16. Huff equaled his career-high with five steals and Webb added four swipes, but UND could never create a comfortable lead in this one.
Anderson twice gave UND the advantage back in overtime on 3-pointers, but after Blake Hamilton tied the score at 69-69 for the Lumberjacks, UND would not score again until Anderson hit a triple with his team down by four with just four seconds left on the clock.
Rogers was quickly fouled and made the first free throw before leaving the second short on purpose. UND called a quick timeout, but only had a half-second on the clock to try for a miracle.
NAU deflected the inbounds pass as the buzzer sounded, letting the Lumberjacks extract revenge for their two-point setback in Flagstaff.
“It will be important for us to have a short memory after this one with four games coming up on the road and three of those coming in the Big Sky.”
Wilmer finished with 12 points and eight rebounds as UND held a 38-35 advantage on the glass. Huff has 10 career double-doubles now and this marks the first time he has had one in consecutive games.
Hamilton finished with 11 points off the bench, including five in the overtime period. Both teams shot 43 percent from the field.
UND opens a pivotal four-game road swing on Wednesday at former NCC foe and current Big Sky rival Northern Colorado. Tipoff is at 8:05 p.m. CT.
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