GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- North Dakota held on to win its Big Sky home opener, knocking off Northern Arizona 68-63 Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.
Senior Quinton Hooker scored a game-high 20 points and sophomore Conner Avants added 17 points and equaled his career-high with nine rebounds to pace the Fighting Hawks (7-6, 2-1 BSC).
The Lumberjacks (3-12, 0-2 BSC) got 19 points from Marcus DeBerry, who provided a jolt for the visitors in the second half that helped make things interesting down the stretch.
After UND took a 33-26 lead into the break thanks to a 10-point half from Avants, DeBerry sparked an early rally that saw NAU take its first lead of the game.
He capped an 11-4 run to open the stanza with his second trey of that stretch to put the Lumberjacks ahead 39-37 at the 12:39 mark.
UND had an answer though and regained control with a 9-0 run that was sparked by freshman Billy Brown. Coming in for his first action of the game, the Spirit Lake, Iowa, native buried a 3-pointer to tie the game at 44-44.
His teammates would extend the advantage to 50-44 with just over seven minutes to play.
Over the next five minutes, Hooker and Avants would team up for a 7-2 run that had the home ahead 60-52 with just over 2:20 to play.
DeBerry and company would not go away as the slender sophomore banked home his third trey of the half with 42 ticks remaining to make it a 65-63 contest. NAU elected to play defense, but a foul late in the shot clock put Geno Crandall on the line for the double-bonus.
The UND sophomore calmly sank both after going just 2-for-5 from the stripe before that. NAU had a pair of looks from beyond the arc on its next possession, but came up empty and Hooker provided the five-point margin with a free throw in the waning seconds.
That freebie gave Hooker his fifth 20-plus point scoring game of the season and 25th of his career. Senior Corey Baldwin added 10 points and came up with a big steal in the final two minutes that help stall the Lumberjacks' rally.
Both teams shot 40 percent from the floor in the contest with NAU going 9-for-23 from deep, while UND connected on just 5-of-17 from beyond the arc.
The Fighting Hawks wrap up their first Big Sky homestand on Saturday with a tilt against Southern Utah at 4:05 p.m. CT.
-- UND --