GRAND FORKS, N.D. – For the second straight game, the North Dakota men’s basketball team held off a pesky Big Sky foe, this time holding on for a 66-62 victory over Idaho State on Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Senior Jaron Nash scored 21 points on 10-of-16 shooting from the field and did most of his damage in the paint. Classmates Troy Huff and Josh Schuler also reached double figures for UND (5-8, 2-1 BSC), who won its second straight league game by four points.
Nash’s big night countered the one by Idaho State junior Chris Hansen, who had a game-high 24 points as he connected on six 3-pointers for the Bengals (5-7, 2-1 BSC), who fell for the first time in league play.
“Those are the types of games you are going to have to win in this league,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “I thought we played really well on the defensive end and Jaron did a great job of using his length and athleticism against their zone, which was huge for us tonight.”
Huff had 12 points, including eight straight during a second-half stretch that saw UND extend what was a 45-43 lead to its peak for the game at 55-43 with just over seven minutes to play.
The Bengals did not fold as they trimmed the deficit all the way down to one point in the final minute before junior Cole Stefan iced the victory with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds.
Schuler had 10 points and hit two big 3-pointers – one at the first-half horn and one late in the contest that put his team back ahead by six with just over two minutes to play.
Hansen answered Schuler’s triple with his sixth of the game to give life back to the visitors and make it a 62-59 contest at the 1:43 mark. After Aaron Anderson made just one-of-two from the stripe, ISU senior Tomas Sanchez missed the front end of a one-and-one, but the Bengals got the ball back to the Seattle native who drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 63-62 with 15 seconds to play.
Huff would make just one-of-two from the stripe, giving the Bengals a chance to tie or possibly win the game with a 3-pointer, but senior Andre Hatchett was called for a charge after driving his shoulder into Jamal Webb. Stefan sealed the win by making both of his foul shots.
Schuler started for just the second time this season and his 26-footer at the buzzer gave the home team a 33-27 edge at the half. Things did not look good early for UND though as the opening 10 minutes of the game belonged to the visitors.
Hansen scored 11 quick points and helped his team build a 23-15 advantage at the midway point of the first half. Hansen would make his fourth 3-pointer of the half with just over seven minutes to play, but that would be the Bengals only field goal of the final 10 minutes.
A big reason they made only one field goal was ISU only got six attempts off as UND forced the Bengals into 11 turnovers in the closing 10 minutes. The home team took advantage of the drought to surge ahead with a 18-4 run. Sophomore Shane Benton had five big points during that stretch.
ISU finished with 23 turnovers, which were the most UND has forced against a Division I opponent this season. UND turned those into 26 points, while ISU managed just 12 points off 13 UND miscues.
Huff and Nash finished with nine and eight rebounds, respectively, as 16 of UND’s 35 rebounds came on the offensive glass. ISU did hold a 37-35 edge in that category. Both players had a pair of blocks as well as UND finished with a season-high seven against a DI-foe.
Webb had five assists, four rebounds and three steals to go with his big charge at the end of the game. The four boards give him 500 for his career.
UND will play host to Weber State on Saturday at 2 p.m. to end a three-game Big Sky homestand.
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