CEDAR CITY, Utah – Southern Utah held off a late charge by North Dakota to pick up its first Big Sky win of the season with a 77-71 victory at Centrum Arena on Thursday. Senior Jamal Webb had 14 of his team-high 18 points in the second half and led a late charge as UND trimmed what was a 16-point deficit all the way down to two with less than a minute to play.
The Thunderbirds (2-26, 1-18 BSC) made enough plays late though to register the home win. It was the regular season finale for the Green and White (15-15, 12-8 BSC), who will next play in the Big Sky Tournament next week in Ogden, Utah.
UND finished the Big Sky regular season with an identical record at 12-8 as last year – their first in the conference. UND could still be the No. 2 seed and will be no worse than the No. 3 seed at the postseason tournament depending on outcome of Saturday’s Northern Arizona-Montana game in Flagstaff. If Montana wins, UND will be the third seed. If NAU wins, UND will be the second seed.
“We just got outplayed tonight,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “From the start to the finish, Southern Utah was the tougher team and deserved to win. We got it going there late, but had dug too deep of a hole to complete the comeback.”
It was a tight first half that featured five ties and five lead changes, but it was a late surge by the Thunderbirds that put the home team ahead 32-28.
UND held a 21-17 lead after a layup by Troy Huff, which put him into third place on UND’s all-time scoring charts, but that would be the final advantage of the contest for the home team. Huff finished with nine points, while Aaron Anderson added 14 and Jaron Nash added 12 for the visitors.
SUU would go on an 8-0 run after falling behind by four over the next three minutes to regain the lead for good. Poor shooting from the field was the main culprit for UND’s deficit in the opening 20 minutes as the visitors went 10-for-30 and just 1-for-11 from beyond the arc.
SUU was not much better, connecting on only 11-of-25 shots, but the T-Birds went 10-for-12 from the line, while UND went only 7-for-12 from the charity stripe.
The sluggish play continued in the second half for the visitors as SUU got hot from the floor, shooting 58 percent after the break. UND never found a rhythm and that coupled with the T-Birds improved play allowed them to build their lead to 61-45 with 6:07 to play.
UND would roar back and get within 73-71 on a layup by Webb with 21 seconds to play, but Race Parsons made a layup and two free throws to seal SUU’s first victory since its season opener vs. Arizona Christian.
Webb finished with six rebounds, three assists and a steal and became the first player in UND history to register four seasons with 50 steals and 100 assists.
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