Troy Huff’s putback with three seconds remaining lifted North Dakota to a dramatic 81-79 victory over Northern Arizona on Saturday in a wild Big Sky basketball game at the Walkup Skydome.FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Junior
Huff finished with a season-high 26 points and UND (8-11, 5-5 BSC) somehow found a way to erase a 22-point first-half deficit and overcome a 35-point outing by NAU senior Gabe Rogers to move back to .500 in Big Sky play with the road win. The Lumberjacks fell to 7-13 and 4-6 in league play.
“That was all about heart,” UND head coach Brian Jones said. “We woke up after the 10-minute mark in the first half and finished with 30 minutes of pretty good basketball. I’m so proud of our guys.
“Our stars did what they were supposed to do, but it was the (role) guys, Shane Benton, Lenny Antwi and Mitch Wilmer, that I thought were the players of the game.”
Things appeared bleak early on as Rogers helped stake his team to a 34-12 lead midway through the first half as NAU opened the game making 15 of its first 20 shots from the floor. He finished with 17 first-half points as the Lumberjacks shot 62.5 percent in the opening 20 minutes.
UND would begin to chip away at the deficit with a strong finish to the first half, closing it on a 24-13 run. Senior Mitch Wilmer, who finished with 10 points, had six points during that stretch as the visitors pulled to within 11 points at the break. Antwi had two 3-pointers and Benton added five points in the first half to help aid the rally.
After watching the Lumberjacks’ scorching start to the first half, UND responded with one of its own in the second half by starting 13-for-14 from the field.
During that stretch, Huff gave UND its first lead of the game on a layup four minutes into the stanza as UND opened it on an 18-4 run.
The Green and White extended their lead to 11 over the next five minutes with another 14-4 run, but Rogers and the home team would not go away quietly. The NAU senior had nine points during a 14-4 run by his squad that made it a 74-74 contest with just over four minutes to play in the game.
Huff broke a 76-76 deadlock with a 3-point play with after getting to the rim, drawing a foul and making the layup.
Rogers would make two free throws to pull NAU within a point and after Huff missed a jumper on the other end, freshman DeWayne Russell drew a foul on Aaron Anderson, who fouled out on the play. The NAU rookie would only make one of his attempts to knot the game up, but the Lumberjacks managed to get the offensive rebound.
Rogers went 13-for-23 for the game from the field, but his final step-back jumper went strong and Huff grabbed the rebound to give his team the possession with 11 seconds remaining.
UND opted to not call timeout and Jamal Webb raced the ball up the court and found Lenny Antwi on the baseline for a good look, but it came up short. Huff was there for the carom and made the easy putback to put his squad up by two.
Russell got the inbounds pass and got just past halfcourt before he had to attempt a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer that fell short.
Josh Schuler finished with 13 points and Wilmer added 10 to give UND a trio of double-figure scorers. Schuler and Webb each had nine points in the second half to spark the comeback. The visitors shot 17-for-27 in the final stanza to finish 54.5 percent for the game.
Huff had a team-high eight rebounds to go with his season-high point total. It was the fifth straight game Huff has led the team in rebounding. UND outrebounded the Lumberjacks 18-10 in the second half after trailing 16-11 in that department at halftime.
Antwi finished with nine points and Benton added a career-high seven. Junior Aaron Anderson, who was held to just seven points, dished out a career-high 10 assists in the victory.
UND returns home next week for a pair of Big Sky games. First up is a clash with Weber State on Thursday at 7:05 p.m.
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Huff's putback secures wild road win for UND