UND closes out Big Sky home season against Northern Colorado
In 2012, the University of North Dakota was accepted into the Big Sky Conference. It was the lifeline UND needed as it was transitioning from Division II to Division I athletics.
And it’s been a good Division I home for the UND men’s basketball program, which — for the most part — has been at its best in the league’s postseason tournament.
But UND’s days in the league are numbered. Their game Saturday, Feb. 24, against Northern Colorado at The Betty will be the last time the UND men’s basketball team plays a regular-season Big Sky contest at home.
Next season, UND is headed for the Summit League, which means the program will be reunited with former rivals North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State.
However, UND first wants another strong finish to the Big Sky season, which ends with the postseason tournament in Reno, Nev. The Fighting Hawks won last season’s Big Sky title in Reno and have been in either the semifinal or championship round of the league tournament in three other seasons.
“We’ve had success in Reno,” said UND coach Brian Jones. “Guys who have been around know how to win in those scenarios. Now, it’s a matter of getting our newer guys confident and comfortable. But we all have the same hurdles because every team begins to ramp up because we’re a one-bid league.”
UND (5-10 Big Sky, 10-17 overall) and Northern Colorado (9-6, 18-10) have had a long history, as old North Central Conference and Big Sky members. Lately, their games have come down to the wire. Four of the past seven UND-UNC games have gone to overtime, including last month’s 94-91 extra-session win by the Bears — coming on a half-court shot by Andre Spight at the buzzer.
“That game hurt,” said UND junior Cortez Seales. “I was the closest one to him when he shot it.”
Spight, an Arizona State transfer, averages a Big Sky-best 24.6 points in league games. He is one of only four Division I players with a pair of 40-plus point games.
“We match up well with each other,” said Seales. “We’re both undersized teams with good guard play. I like their style of play; it’s similar to our style. It’s a fun game to play.”
Also, it’s likely today’s game will be the last time Northern Colorado plays basketball in Grand Forks. Overall, UND is 27-7 against the Bears at home, dating back to the NCC days. UND’s home record as a Big Sky member is 35-20.
Also, it’s Senior Day for UND basketball. The Hawks will honor their lone senior — Iowa transfer Dale Jones, who is averaging 11.3 points and 6.4 rebounds.
“He’s been like a big brother to me,” said Seales.