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March Mania

UND men's basketball prepares for demanding Summit League stretch

UND forward Gertautas Urbonavicius (32) goes toe-to-toe with Denver's Jase Townsend (3) on a rebound in the first half of a game earlier this season at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. UND will host Summit League-leader South Dakota State on Wednesday night. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — It’s never easy to win road games in men’s college basketball.

So, road wins are always appreciated.

The University of North Dakota — coming off an overtime road win last week at Western Illinois — will appreciate that victory with the hope that it can help build momentum as the Fighting Hawks hit the final two weeks of the Summit League regular season.

UND improved to 6-6 in the Summit and 12-14 overall with last week’s win. Tonight, the Hawks start a gauntlet of games as they host league-leader South Dakota State, followed by games against North Dakota State (Saturday), Omaha (Feb. 26) and South Dakota (Feb. 29). All four teams are ahead of fifth-place UND.

“These next four games, we can get black and blue if we allow it,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “We have to come at it with some intensity and understanding. These are going to be some physical, physical games.

“You’ve got SDSU, NDSU at home and Omaha and South Dakota on the road. Last I checked, those four teams are having pretty good years. So, it’s more about us and getting ready to play than it is who we’re playing. Let’s go out and compete. What a great opportunity. We’ve got nothing to lose.”

South Dakota State (11-2, 20-8) has won six straight. And the Jackrabbits have had UND’s number in the Division I era, winning seven of the eight games between the programs including the last seven.

The Jackrabbits have shot the ball well all season, shooting 50 percent or better in all but one of their Summit games. And SDSU’s defense has limited opponents to 69.5 points per game, holding teams under 60 points seven times.

But the calendar is nearing March and that means teams need to be playing their best if they have aspirations of postseason success.

“If we start playing for 40 minutes the way we can, there is not a team in this league we can’t beat,” said Sather. “It’s so easy to say that. But it’s so hard to do that.”

Wayne Nelson
Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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