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Senior Aaron Anderson had 14 of his 16 points in the second half to lead UND to a 79-76 win over Sacramento State on Thursday.
UND gets by Hornets in Big Sky quarterfinals
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Updated: Saturday 03/14/2014 01:57:16 (ET)
by UNDsports.com
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OGDEN, Utah – In a league that saw its final standings be as tight as any in Division I basketball, second-seeded North Dakota was not surprisingly taken to the wire by seventh-seeded and upset-minded Sacramento State, but held on to post a 79-76 in the first quarterfinal of the Big Sky Men’s Basketball Tournament.

It was UND’s seniors that proved to be clutch down the stretch as the Green and White held on to earn its second consecutive trip to the tournament’s semifinal round since joining the league. Senior Aaron Anderson had 14 of his 16 points in the second half and his acrobatic layup with just over three minutes to play gave his squad the lead for good.

Troy Huff added 18 for UND (16-15) and fellow classmates Josh Schuler and Alonzo Traylor each came up big with 11 points. This senior class is now 7-1 in postseason conference tournament play for their careers.

Sacramento State’s Mikh McKinney led all scorers with 24 points and Dylan Garrity added 18 for the Hornets, but UND made key stops in the final minute to prevent the upset.

“We knew it was going to be a dog fight,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “We did not play winning basketball on the defensive end in the first half, but came out with a different focus in the second half and that was the difference.”

After free throw by Huff put his team up 74-72 with just over a minute to play, McKinney missed a 3-pointer, but his teammates had two more cracks at the game-tying field goal before turning it over. Huff, who led the conference in steals in the regular season, knocked the ball loose from Cody Demps and Schuler came up with the loose ball.

He made only one of two free throws on the next trip to make it a 75-72 contest. On SAC’s next possession, senior Jamal Webb fouled out after trying for a steal on Garrity in the backcourt and the Hornets’ junior would pull his team within a point by burying both free throws.

Anderson then went to the line for UND and made both to put the higher-seed up by three and McKinney had one more attempt to tie it, but was off the mark. Instead of getting another look from beyond the arc, Dreon Barlett opted for the two-point putback with only two seconds remaining.

Schuler was then tackled by McKinney with just nine-tenths of a second to play. The Urbana, Ohio native could not resume after hurting his knee on the play and Anderson was allowed to shoot the free throws. He would make both and SAC’s last-second inbounds heave was deflected away.

After allowing the Hornets to shoot 55 percent from the floor in the opening half, UND tightened its defense up and allowed SAC to shoot just 37 percent in the closing 20 minutes. Meanwhile, UND shot 56 percent in the second half to help erase what was as many as a seven-point deficit after the break.

Junior Cole Stefan hit two huge 3-pointers during the game – one in the first half and one down the stretch that gave UND a 69-68 advantage with just over six minutes to play. That was the first lead for UND since the beginning of the half when Jaron Nash erased a three-point halftime deficit by scoring the first two baskets out of the break.

The teams traded big runs early in the game before things settled down into a back-and-forth affair. The first 20 minutes saw seven lead changes and a majority of those came after UND built a 22-13 lead on Stefan’s first 3-pointer of the game. He finished with six points and UND went 7-for-18 from beyond the arc for the game.

The Hornets responded with a 14-1 and had three players in double figures in the first half. McKinney, Garrity and veteran teammate Cody Demps made up that trio that went 13-for-17 from the field in the first half. Demps finished with 15 points.

Huff matched Garrity, who hit all three of his 3-point attempts in the opening stanza, with 13 points, but after Chad Calcaterra trimmed the deficit to one, McKinney hit a runner down the lane at the horn to give his team its 42-39 edge at the break.

UND only turned the ball over seven times and forced the Hornets into 10, but SAC did hold a 34-25 advantage on the glass.

UND will play the highest-remaining seed in the Friday’s first semifinal at 5:30 p.m. CT.

-- UND --

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