GRAND FORKS, N.D. – North Dakota guard Troy Huff’s putback left his hand just in time to give his squad a dramatic Senior Day win over Eastern Washington on Saturday afternoon at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Plagued by foul trouble the entire game, the senior from Milwaukee scored all 14 of his points in the second half to help lift UND to a hard fought 69-67 victory and season sweep of the Eagles.
In a matchup of the league’s top two scorers, UND held Eastern Washington’s Tyler Harvey in check for a majority of the game until the sophomore hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 15 seconds to play. Harvey’s first trey of the game made it a 67-67 contest and set the stage for Huff’s dramatics.
Classmate Jamal Webb, who had 13 points, had an open look for a potential game-winning three from the corner, but his shot was short and glanced off the rim right to Huff, who boarded the miss and quickly let go of the ball just before the horn sounded, sending it through the net.
The referees checked the video replay system to confirm the shot beat the buzzer and the crowd of 1,780 roared in unison after they declared the basket was good.
"At the eight-minute mark there, the seniors took over the huddle and said what needed to be done," UND head coach said. "That just shows their maturity and what a fitting end with all that these seniors have done. They have been unbelievable for this program."
The victory leaves UND (14-14) at 11-7 in Big Sky play and in good position to earn a berth to the league’s postseason tournament. The Eagles (14-15) were looking for a road sweep after beating Northern Colorado by 14 on Thursday, but fall to 9-9 in league action with two home games remaining.
Senior Jaron Nash had 21 point and seven rebounds to pace UND in scoring, while EWU’s Vinky Jois led all scorers with 22 points. Jois and teammate Martin Seiferth both had double-doubles in the loss. Jois grabbed 11 rebounds, while Seiferth had 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Harvey, who came in averaging 24.0 ppg in Big Sky play, was limited to 11. UND is the only team to hold him to single digits this season. Harvey had seven in the first meeting between the two teams on Jan. 30.
Neither team played clean basketball in the first half as Eastern Washington never trailed, but only led 28-27 at the break. UND shot just 28 percent from the floor and could never get in a rhythm, while EWU shot 48 percent, but turned the ball over 10 times and made only 5-of-12 free throws to keep things close.
Huff, who was the league's second leading scorer at 19.6 ppg, was held scoreless and Harvey had just two points in those opening 20 minutes.
Nash came up big to keep UND within striking distance, leading all scorers with nine points.
Huff quickly turned things on in the second half scoring UND's first 10 points after the break. That spurt allowed UND to take a six-point advantage and the Green and White would grow that to as many as nine points early in the second half before the Eagles fought back and made a game of it down the stretch.
Harvey gave his squad its first lead of the second half on a jumper at 50-49 with just over nine minutes to play, but Webb responded with a 3-pointer to give UND a lead they fight hard to not relinquish.
The home team would surge back ahead by seven, but EWU went on an 8-1 run before Huff would ruin the Eagles' comeback attempt with his buzzer-beater.
UND would turn things around from the field in the second half, going 15-for-26 (58 percent). That was the same mark UND went from the foul line for the game as both teams struggled from the charity stripe. EWU finished 12-for-25 with Jois going 6-for-12.
UND's six active seniors accounted for 65 of the team' 69 points. Josh Schuler added five points before injuring his shoulder and leaving the game midway through the second half. Aaron Anderson had seven points and a game-high seven assists, while Alonzo Traylor added four points.
UND will wrap up its regular-season home schedule with a rare Tuesday night game against Northern Colorado. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.
GAME NOTES: Huff's game-winning shot brought back memories from two seasons ago when Patrick Mitchell hit a buzzer beater on his Senior Day to lift UND to a 57-56 victory over Utah Valley ... Both made putbacks from similar spots on the floor after misses from the corner.
-- UND --