Time for separation: UND, NDSU basketball in a similar place ahead of rivalry game

(FNS) — The University of North Dakota and North Dakota State men’s basketball programs are in a similar place.
They both feature rebuilt lineups, hold identical 8-11 records and are hoping to climb up from the bottom half of the Summit League standings in the second half of the season.
In fact, for years not much has separated these two programs.
Since 2000, UND and NDSU have played each other 20 times.
The teams are 10-10 against each other in that span. In Grand Forks, the record is 5-5. In Fargo, the record is 5-5.
Fans can likely expect a tight finish in the 293rd meeting between UND and NDSU on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m. at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex in Fargo.
The game, which dates back to 1905, will be the first meeting between the two teams as Summit League foes and first as conference opponents since 2004.
NDSU plans to honor the football program’s national championship on the court on Saturday, as well.
“We’re going to have to battle things outside our control like honoring a national championship team,” UND coach Brian Jones said. “If we’re not dialed in and gritty, it’s going to be a long afternoon for us.
“(The Bison) are very disciplined in what they do, so we’re going to have to tighten some things up but still try to play our style of ball.”
The Fighting Hawks beat NDSU 86-77 in Fargo last year. UND returns the top two contributors in that game as Marlon Stewart had 20 against the Bison and Conner Avants had 17.
NDSU’s big pieces from a year ago, however, were seniors. In the loss, NDSU’s Paul Miller scored 27 and A.J. Jacobson added 18.
Instead of relying heavily on Miller and Jacobson like a year ago, the Bison workload is pretty evenly balanced this season.
Tyson Ward leads the way with an 11.8 points per game average, followed by Deng Geu (11.7), Vinnie Shahid (11.2), Rocky Kreuser (10.6) and Cameron Hunter (8.0).
NDSU’s struggles this year have been tied to defense, where the team is one of the worst in the country at field-goal percentage defense (47.3 percent).
UND is coming off a 78-74 loss to Summit League preseason favorite South Dakota State, where Jackrabbits star Mike Daum went off for 34 points and 21 rebounds.
Like the Bison, UND doesn’t have a dominant scorer. Starters Cortez Seales (12.8 ppg), Avants (12.4) and Stewart (11.6) are the top scorers, while Aanen Moody (10.0) and Filip Rebraca (8.4) provide a punch off the bench.
“I’m kind of new, but I’ve heard about this rivalry and I’m expecting a good, tough game,” said Rebraca, a freshman from Serbia. “Hopefully, we can go down to Fargo and get a win. We desperately need one. I’m excited about it.”
The Hawks’ play has improved in the second half of the year with the return of Stewart, who was academically ineligible the first half of the year.
Against the Jacks, Stewart scored 19 points — all in the second half. He sat most of the first half with foul trouble.
The junior, a Creighton transfer, is now averaging 18.4 points per game in nine career games against teams in the Summit League.
The only North Dakota native to play in the game will be Moody, a redshirt freshman sharpshooter. Since the start of league play, Moody has scored at least 18 points three times.
The Dickinson, N.D., product is the only in-state player on UND’s roster, while NDSU’s only in-state player, Moody’s former prep teammate Jordan Meidinger, is out for the season. The redshirt freshman 7-footer was ruled out in October with a torn ACL.