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Courtesy: Matt Schill, UNDsports.com
Senior captain Quinton Hooker and his Fighting Hawk teammates will make their NCAA Division I Championship debut on Thursday against second-seeded Arizona in the West Regional.
Big Sky Champs head West for Big Dance debut
Courtesy: UNDsports.com
Release: 03/14/2017
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SALT LAKE CITY -- The North Dakota men's basketball team will be making its 20th NCAA Tournament appearance on Thursday, but what makes this one special is that it will be the first for the program at the Division I level. The 15th-seeded Fighting Hawks will take on second-seeded Arizona in the West Regional at approximately 7:50 p.m. MT/8:50 CT on Thursday in Salt Lake City.

Head coach Brian Jones has led his program to a DI-record 22 wins through the regular season and Big Sky Tournament and posted the first 20-win season since the 2004-05 team (20-10).

UND VS. ARIZONA SERIES

All-time: First Meeting
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Arizona: First Meeting
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller vs. North Dakota: First Meeting
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Pac-12: 0-2
Arizona Head Coach Sean Miller vs. Big Sky: 7-0

WHERE TO WATCH/LISTEN/TRACK
TV: TBS (Andrew Catalon, PBP; Steve Lappas, Analyst; and Jamie Eardahl; Sidline)
National Radio: Westwood One (Kevin Kugler, PBP; and Dan Dickau; Analyst)
UND Radio: 100.3 FM (Grand Forks) | 104.7 FM (Fargo/Moorhead) | Paul Ralston (PBP)
Live Audio Stream: www.UNDSports.com and UND Sports Mobile App
Live Stats: www.NCAA.com

IN THE PAINT...
• UND advanced to the Elite Eight seven different times at the DII level and posted a 30-22 record overall in the tournament. The athletics department began the transition to the Division I level prior to the 2008-09 season and spent four seasons in that process before becoming a full-fledged member in 2012-13, which was the season UND joined the Big Sky Conference.
• This will be the first time UND has played Arizona on the hardwood, but the team has played a pair of Pac-12 members within the last four seasons. The Fighting Hawks fell 91-76 at Oregon on Nov. 30, 2013 and, then dropped a 90-53 decision at Utah on Nov. 28, 2014. Both games were part of multi-team events hosted by the Ducks and Utes.
• These two squads played a pair of common opponents during the 2016-17 regular season. Arizona defeated Big Sky member Northern Colorado 71-55 on Nov. 21, while UND won a pair of single-overtime contests in both of its Big Sky affairs with the Bears this season (87-77, Feb. 25 home; 84-81, Feb. 25 away). Both teams also defeated Cal-State Bakersfield in November. UA won 78-66 at the McKale Center (Nov. 15), while UND used a buzzer-beater to cap a game-closing 12-0 run to beat the Roadrunners 57-55 at Men Against Breast Cancer Classic in Dayton, Ohio (Nov. 27).
• The fourth-ranked Wildcats will be the highest-ranked team the Fighting Hawks have played at the Division I level. UND played Wisconsin during the 2013-14 season and fell to the 12th-ranked Badgers, who went on to finish as national runners-up that year, 103-85.

ON THE HORIZON
A victory for UND in Thursday’s second-round matchup with Arizona would create a third-round matchup on Saturday with the winner of the No. 7 St. Mary’s and No. 10 VCU contest. The Gaels and Rams will play the first game of the evening session in Salt Lake City on Thursday.

LAST TIME OUT: (1) North Dakota 93, (3) Weber State 89 (Mar. 11)
RENO, Nev. – Top-seeded North Dakota advanced to its first NCAA Division I Tournament with a thrilling 93-89 overtime win over Weber State in the Big Sky Conference Tournament title game Saturday evening at the Reno Events Center. Senior Quinton Hooker finished with a game-high 28 points, part of six players in double figures for UND, and was named the Tournament MVP.

The program-changing victory came against a Weber State (19-13) squad that had knocked UND (22-9) out of all three of its previous Big Sky Tournament appearances. This time the result was different.

UND rallied back from down 11 in the second half to force the extra frame. Once there, big baskets by Geno Crandall and Hooker helped North Dakota outscore the Wildcats in the overtime session.

Crandall forced overtime with a driving layup with only seven seconds to play after the Fighting Hawks trailed by six with 51 seconds to go. Hooker had the first four points during that spurt to will his team back.

Crandall finished with 17 points, equaled his career-high with nine rebounds and added seven assists. Crandall also had three steals, including one in overtime that sealed the win for the Fighting Hawks.

BUSY IN THE BEEHIVE STATE
Bee-lieve it or not, Utah is the state North Dakota has played more road and neutral site games in than any other during it’s Division I history (since 2008-09). That total is 22 and UND owns a record of 11-11 during that stretch, including a 2-0 record this season (wins at Southern Utah; Jan. 26 and at Weber State; Feb. 18). In neutral court affairs, UND is 6-2 in the Beehive State as a DI member. The team won the 2011 Great West Conference Tournament title in Orem on a last-second, 3-pointer by Josh Schuler to beat South Dakota in double-overtime. The Fighting Hawks are 5-2 all-time in conference tournament games played in Utah.

Q AND COREY LAND ON ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Senior classmates Quinton Hooker and Corey Baldwin were both named to the All-Big Sky Tournament Team and Hooker collected Tournament MVP honors for their efforts in leading UND to a title. Hooker nearly exceeded his scoring output from the first two games (30) in the title game with a 28-point performance against the Weber State. Baldwin posted the first double-double of his career in the quarterfinal victory (18 pts/10 rebs) over Portland State. Baldwin also went 11-for-16 from 3-point land in Reno and led the team in scoring in both the quarters and semis. He averaged 14.6 ppg and reached double figures in all three games.

BALDWIN’S BOMBS
Senior Corey Baldwin entered the Big Sky Tournament having made only three of 18 attempts from beyond the arc in the four games leading up to Reno. However, in the three victories in Reno, Baldwin made 11-of-16 (68.8%). As a team, UND shot 47 percent from distance (25-for-53). The Fighting Hawks enter the NCAA Tournament

JONES IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS
Head coach Brian Jones improved to a 15-4 record in DI postseason conference tournaments since UND moved up Divisions prior to the 2008-09 season. He has led six of those seven teams to the semifinals or further, including the 2011 and 2012 Great West Tournament titles. His teams are now 8-3 in a trio of Big Sky Tournament appearances.

COMMON DENOMINATOR
UND’s last three regular season conference championship teams all had one things in common, each of them went undefeated in February (1990-91, 8-0 NCC; 1994-95, 7-0 NCC; and 2016-17, 6-0 BSC).

THE ONE AND ONLY
Senior Quinton Hooker is the only player in program history to score 1,700 points (1,734), grab 400 rebounds (494), dish out 400 assists (413) and net 150 steals (191) in a career. He is second among active Big Sky scorer’s trailing only Weber State’s Jeremy Senglin (2,030). Hooker’s 413 assists and 191 steals are tops among Big Sky players.

HOOKER PASSES PHIL JACKSON, MOVES UP ASSIST CHARTS
With his 17-point and seven-assist performance in UND’s quarterfinal victory over Portland State (Mar. 9), senior Quinton Hooker moved into sixth place on the program’s all-time scoring chart and fourth on the all-time assist chart. Hooker passed former UND legend and current New York Knicks’ President Phil Jackson (1,704) on the scoring charts and became just the fifth player in UND history with 400-plus career assists. After the title game victory over Weber State, Hooker now has 1,762 career points and 413 assists in his four seasons.

GENO TAKES DOWN RENO
Sophomore guard Geno Crandall averaged 16.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 6.3 apg during UND’s three victories in Reno. He made timely shots throughout the tourament, but none were bigger than his layup with seven seconds to go in regulation against Weber State in the title game. The acrobatic effort throught traffic squared things up at 81-81. He was at his best in crunch time, helping UND erase a 10-point deficit in the final 7:26. Crandall scored eight of UND’s 20 points in that closing stretch and added four more points in overtime to seal the third victory of the season over Weber State. UND entered the season with a 1-9 all-time record against the Wildcats and had been knocked out of all three of its previous Big Sky Tournaments by them as well. Crandall helped change the momentum in the series by averaging 22.3 ppg against the Wildcats in those three victories, while senior Quinton Hooker added 24.0 ppg against his career-long nemesis.

MAGIC FORMULAS
UND has a sometimes simple formula to winning this season: score 80-plus points or shoot 50 percent or better from the field. UND holds a 16-0 record when doing so and have reached that figure in 10 of its last 15 games. However, the Fighting Hawks are only 6-9 this season when being held below 80 points and dipped below 60 for just the second time this season in the 57-53 loss to Sacramento State (Mar. 2). UND was held to season lows for first-half points (23) and total points (57) by the Hornets.

UND also owns a 14-0 record this season when shooting 50 percent or better from the field and opened the Big Sky Tournament with a 55.9 percent clip in the victory over Portland State. Their best effort from the field this season came in the home win over Weber State when they shot 56.6 percent from the field.

SIGNED, SEALES AND DELIVERED
Sophomore Cortez Seales, who was named the Big Sky Reserve of the Year, found his scoring groove late in the season. In the three games in Reno, Seales averaged 10.3 ppg. In his last 10 regular-season game, he averaged 12.7 ppg and reached double figures six times. Seales scored a season-high 23 points off the bench in the overtime win at Northern Colorado (Feb. 25). It was the third 20-point plus game of his career and first time he led UND in scoring since dropping 27 in his collegiate debut vs. Minnesota-Morris last season. In UND’s final three road wins of the season, he averaged 16.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg and shot 50 percent from the field (20-for-40).

OVERTIME MOJO
UND improved to 4-0 this season in overtime contests with the four-point win over Weber State in the Big Sky title game (Mar. 11). Since moving to the Division I level (2008-09), the Fighting Hawks are 12-5 in overtime games. The Fighting Hawks ended last season with back-to-back overtime setbacks (Weber State; Big Sky Semis and UC-Irvine; CIT opening round).

FEBRUARY PERFECTION
With the 84-81 overtime win at Northern Colorado (Feb. 25), UND capped its first perfect February since the 1994-95 season by going 6-0. Those six victories included three wins on the road and three at home. The Fighting Hawks also started and ended the month with overtime wins against the Bears and won the only matchup with Eastern Washington this season, 95-86 at The Betty. The Eagles are currently a game behind UND in the Big Sky standings with road games at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona this week.

The month also included the program’s first victory over Weber State in Ogden -- a 77-68 victory on the 18th. That triumph vaulted UND into first place in the league standings. The Fighting Hawks now control their own destiny and will look for the program’s first conference title since that same 1994-95 team that went unbeaten in February shared the North Central Conference title.

HOME COOKIN’
UND finished the 2016-17 regular season with an 11-2 record at The Betty this season and has won 13 of its last 14 at home against Big Sky foes dating back to last season. The Fighting Hawks averaged 84.8 ppg and shooting 50.3 percent from the field in home games this season, while opponents are only averaging 68.5 ppg and shooting just 41.4 percent from the field. Senior Quinton Hooker averaged 21.2 ppg in 13 home games this season.

HALFTIME DEFICIT, WHO CARES
The Fighting Hawks have trailed at the half in 13 games this season and have found a way to come back and win seven of those contests. In fact, UND trailed at the half in nine of 18 Big Sky games and rallied to win six of those contests. For the season, the largest halftime deficit overcome was an 11-point spread vs. CSU-Bakersfield (Nov. 27) during the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic in Dayton, Ohio. UND closed that game on a 16-0 run to win 57-55.

OPPONENT PREVIEW: ARIZONA
• Head coach Sean Miller led the Wildcats to their fourth Pac-12 title under his watch in 2016-17.
• Miller owns a 218-65 career record at Arizona in what is his eighth season directing the program. The Wildcats are 30-4 overall this season (fifth time in head coaching career with 30-plus wins) and finished 16-2 in Pac-12 play to share the league title with Oregon.
• Those two faced off in the Pac-12 Tournament title game on Saturday and the second-seeded Wildcats hung on for an 83-80 victory over the Ducks. Sophomore Allonzo Trier led Arizona in the game with 23 points and eight rebounds.
• He has been the team’s leading scorer at 17.3 ppg since being ruled eligible to play in late January by the NCAA after sitting out the first 19 games of the season due to an off-court suspension.
• The Wildcats have a pair of 7-footers in their regular starting lineup. Freshman Lauri Markkanen (Finland) is averaging 15.6 ppg and a team-high 7.1 rpg in his first collegiate season, while junior Dusan Ristic (Serbia) is averaging 10.6 ppg and 5.6 rpg for Miller.
• Freshman guard Rawl Alkins is the fourth Wildcat averaging in double figures. He scores at an 11.0 ppg clip and also dishes out 2.0 apg.
• Reserve guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright is the team’s top distributor, dishing out 4.2 apg in 25.0 mpg.
• Arizona has advanced to the Sweet 16 in four of their five trips to the NCAA Tournament under Miller. The only season that did not occur was a year ago when the Wildcats were the No. 6 seed in the South Region. They fell victim to No. 11 Wichita State 65-55 in the second round, which was their first game of the tournament.
• This will be Arizona’s 32nd appearance in the NCAA Tournament and the Wildcats have claimed the 1997 National Championship with an 84-79 victory over Kentucky that season.
• Arizona has lost its opening game as No. 2 seed once before when 15th-seeded Santa Clara shocked the Wildcats 64-61 behind the play of future NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash (10 points, four assists).

-- UND --

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