Hawks fall to Northern Colorado in final home game

GRAND FORKS — Saturday began with the University of North Dakota’s lone senior, 6-foot-9 Dale Jones, suffering from back spasms. He wouldn’t be able to play his final home game with his teammates.

Saturday ended with UND’s 79-66 loss against Northern Colorado before 1,895 fans at The Betty, a game in which the Fighting Hawks failed to make a 3-pointer. For the first time in the program’s Division I era, UND was held scoreless from beyond the arc.

It’s been a season of highs and lows for the Hawks, who, at times, have played exceptionally well. Then, there are those other times . . . like their up-and-down performance against the Bears.

UND dropped to 5-11 in the Big Sky and 10-18 overall as the Hawks end the regular season on the road next week before heading to Reno, Nevada, for the Big Sky tournament beginning March 6.

“It’s that time of the year; you have to find ways to get better,” said UND coach Brian Jones. “We have to get ready for two weeks on the road. That takes a lot of toughness, maturity and discipline.”

UND and Northern Colorado have played some entertaining games the past few seasons. Four of the past seven meetings between the teams went to overtime, including one earlier this season in Greeley, Colo.

The Bears (10-6, 19-10), however, made sure that wouldn’t happen again, leading from start to finish behind a trio of consistent scorers.

— Jonah Radebaugh (19 points), Jordan Davis (16) and Andre Spight (16).

The Bears used a damaging 8-0 run to go up 42-23 late in the first half. But UND did manage to make a surge, pulling to within 55-48 on two Cortez Seales (20 points) free throws with 12:21 to go. But Anthony Johnson responded with a 3-pointer for Northern Colorado, which was the start of a game-ending 10-2 run.

“We didn’t compete the way we’re able to compete in the last eight minutes of the first half,” said Jones. “When we cut into that lead in the second half, we just couldn’t get over the hump. They’re one of the best teams in the country in taking away the 3 and Dale is a big part of our (3-point) shooting.”

UND’s 0-for-8 showing on 3-point attempts hurt, considering the Hawks are undersized to begin with.

But UND managed to hang around due to Conner Avants’ double-double, 19 points and a career-high 12 rebounds. Geno Crandall and Marlon Stewart added 15 and 10, respectively, but the Hawks received only two bench points and gave up 12 second-chance points.

“It’s frustrating because we know what we can do and what our potential is,” said Avants. “We just haven’t shown it but we’re excited to get to Reno. Anything can happen.”