GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Idaho used a balanced attack and strong first half to knock off North Dakota 74-57 in the Big Sky opener for both teams Friday. The Fighting Hawks (4-8, 0-1 BSC) could never get on track, while the league's top defensive team held the home team to a season low in points.
UND sophomore Marlon Stewart led all scorers with 17 points, but he was the only Fighting Hawk that had anything going in the first half as he scored 15 of the team's 18 points. He went 4-for-5 from the floor and sank 6-of-7 free throws, while the rest of the team went just 1-for-13 from the field.
The Vandals (9-4, 1-0 BSC) proved why they are at the top of the Big Sky rankings in several defensive categories in those opening 20 minutes, holding UND to a 28 percent clip from the floor, while forcing 14 first-half turnovers.
The visitors turned those miscues into 20 points and that along with the poor shooting allowed the Vandals to build a 35-18 advantage at the break.
"In the first half, our turnovers allowed them to get separation and they are really good in transition, so a lot of credit to them," UND head coach Brian Jones said. "In the second half, I thought our defense was solid and our offense was a little bit better, but quite frankly, we need guys to start making open shots."
Idaho's Victor Sanders, a preseason All-Big Sky selection, was held in check through most of the first half, but had nine points in the closing four minutes, including back-to-back 3-pointers that helped stretch what was a nine-point advantage into a 33-15 halftime-lead.
It was a dead heat in the second half with both teams scoring 39 points, but UND could not chip away at the deficit because the Vandals shot 68 percent from the floor in the closing 20 minutes.
Sanders was a non-factor in the second half because of foul trouble and ended up going to the bench for good after fouling out with 4:29 to play. His teammates picked him up though by going 15-for-22 from the field.
Perrion Callandret led the Vandals with 13 points, while Brayon Blake added 12 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Blake's efforts on the glass helped Idaho hold a 35-21 edge in that category.
Junior Geno Crandall scored nine of his 10 points in the second half and reserve guard Tray Buchanan scored all 12 of his season high, including a 3-for-5 effort from beyond the arc, to pace UND's improved offensive effort.
Eight Vandals had at least five points and they finished shooting 56 percent from the floor, while holding UND to a 35.7 percent clip.
The Fighting Hawks only turned it over five times in the second half, while Idaho committed 13 turnovers and finished with 22 for the game.
UND will next take on Eastern Washington in a New Year's Eve matinee at The Betty with tip-off scheduled for 4 p.m. CT.
-- UND --