Orem, Utah — Freshman Aaron Anderson (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) hit what proved to be his second game-winning shot in the past three games as the University of North Dakota men’s basketball team defeated Texas-Pan American, 71-70, in Great West Tournament quarterfinal action on Friday at the UCCU Center.
Anderson’s left-handed floater banked in high off the glass with 11 seconds to play to put UND (17-14) ahead 71-67. UTPA’s Aaron Urbanus made the freshman’s shot matter after drilling a 3-pointer to keep the Broncs (6-25) within reach in the closing seconds.
After Sioux freshman Josh Schuler (Urbana, Ohio) missed a pair of free throws, UTPA had one more chance, but an inbounds pass with 2.6 seconds left was deflected by Patrick Mitchell (Des Moines, Iowa) and the Sioux scooped up the loose ball to run the final second off the clock.
Mitchell and freshman Troy Huff (Milwaukee, Wis.) led a balanced-scoring attack with 12 points each as nine different Sioux players had at least four points in the contest. Sophomore Jordan Allard (Fargo, N.D.) added nine points off the bench as the Sioux reserves came up big in the contest, outscoring UTPA’s 28-17. Anderson also had a game-high six assists off the bench.
The win was the fourth straight for the Sioux, which is their longest such streak of the season and the program’s 17 wins are the most in Brian Jones’ five seasons as the team’s head coach.
UND also avenged a loss in last year’s tournament as the No. 3 seed, advancing to play No. 7 seed Houston Baptist in Friday’s first semifinal at 6 p.m. CT. The Huskies upset No. 2 seed NJIT, 72-70, in another exciting contest.
“I thought we took another step forward tonight,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “We showed maturity to get back in it and pick up a postseason victory. We played well in the first half, but I thought we lost our focus defensively in the second half and that allowed them to get back in the game. But, our guys came up with the plays down the stretch and our bench was outstanding again.”
The Sioux led by nine at the break, 33-24, thanks to 52 percent (13-for-25) shooting from the floor, while holding UTPA to just a 29.6 percent clip (8-for-27), but those trends changed quickly at the start of the second half. UTPA went on an 8-0 run in the first 90 seconds of the half to make it a contest again.
The Broncs would surge ahead for the first time in the game on the strength of a 15-3 run as the Sioux made just two field goals in the opening eight minutes of the half.
UND did not give in though as a Mitchell jumper from the wing capped a 12-4 spurt to give the lead back to the higher seed at 52-51 with 7:08 on the clock.
The lead would change six more times in the final seven minutes of the contest, but Huff gave to UND for good with a driving layup at the 2:42 mark. Huff’s bucket sparked an 8-0 run that the Sioux would need to hold off Urbanus and company.
The Broncs’ sophomore finished with a game-high 18 points and Jared Maree added 13 points for a UTPA team that went 9-for-25 from beyond the arc. Urbanus and Maree combined for seven of those as UND held the league’s top three-point shooter, Brandon Provost, to seven points and zero trifectas on five attempts.
Senior center Derek Benter (Crosby, N.D.) followed Huff’s layup with a fade away jumper as the reserve forward finished with eight points and a season-high eight rebounds.
Freshman guard Jamal Webb (Buffalo, N.Y.) came up with a big ball steal and layup in the closing stretch as well. He finished with nine points and capped the pivotal 8-0 run with a pair of free throws.
The Sioux are a perfect 14-0 this season when scoring 70 or more points in regulation. Huff’s 12 points put him over the 400-point mark for the season as he became just the third Sioux rookie to achieve that feat.
– Go Sioux –