SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- No. 2 seeded Arizona brought an end to a magical season for 15th-seeded North Dakota Thursday night as the Wildcats defeated the Fighting Hawks 100-82 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
UND senior Quinton Hooker scored 25 points in his final collegiate game and junior Drick Bernstine added 20 points and a season-high 15 rebounds to pace the Fighting Hawks (22-10, who played in front of 16,341 fans on the first full day of March Madness.
"It's been such a special year," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "I thought we stayed true to ourselves today. We didn't flinch. We came out and played to our abilities .. and that's all we can ask for. These guys did a phenomenal job and I couldn't be more proud or more happy for them not only for tonight, but throughout the course of the season."
Bernstine was a force in the paint for the underdogs, but the taller Wildcats were too much to handle in the end. The Aurora, Colo., native had registered his double-double by halftime with 12 points and 10 boards.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats came out scolding hot the from the field and built a 53-37 advantage by the break.
UND's resiliency showed up in the second half, however, and the Fighting Hawks outscored the Wildcats 24-15 in the opening nine minute sof the second half to trim the deficit to 68-61.
After another defensive stop, Hooker had a 3-point attempt that hit high off the rim, but fell off. Kadeem Allen raced the ball down the court and converted a 3-point play that would spark a game-clinching run for Arizona. The Wildcats would get the next 12 points to push their advantage to 19 and end any thoughts of UND putting on the postseason event's preverbial glass slipper.
Allen was one of five Wildcat starters to reach double figures. Lauri Markkanen and Rawle Alkins each had 20 for Arizona, who built its 16-point lead at the break on the strength of 61 percent shooting from the floor. The Wildcats were also efficient at the free-throw line where they went 24-for-28, while UND had its struggles from the charity stripe making only 8-of-16 attempts.
Sophomore Geno Crandall helped spark UND's strong start to the second half as he finished with 12 points and had five of his game-high six assists and eight of his points after the break.
Hooker's fellow seniors Corey Baldwin (12) and Devon Pekas (3) also played in their final games for UND. Baldwin went 4-for-9 from deep and two of those early connections had UND out to an early 10-7 advantage. Much like the second half though, Arizona answered by pushing ahead with a convincing 13-1 run that eventually led to the 16-point halftime advantage.
Hooker connected on 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and made his final attempt before being subbed out for the final time. Pekas, a walk-on from Hawley, Minn., capped the game's scoring by burying a 3-pointer from the corner, while classmate Thomas Blake added two rebounds and an assist in his final court time for the Fighting Hawks.
UND's 22-win season was its best at the Division I level for the program.
-- UND --