Hawks beat Trojans 74-72 at Paradise Classic
Despite leading by 14 with 11:25 left in the game, it took North Dakota (2-1) going 4-for-4 at the line in the final minute to hold off Troy (2-2) in a 74-72 victory in game one of the Paradise Classic.
Mitchell Sueker led the Hawks with 25 points, including going 8-for-10 from the charity stripe and going 2-for-2 at the line with nine seconds left. Sueker also had four boards, a pair of assists and one block.
Matt Norman joined Sueker in double figures with 13. Eleven of the 13 points came in the second half, scoring 11 points in a flurry of less than three minutes between the 16:39-13:51 mark in the second half. Norman corralled a team-leading six rebounds to go with one steal.
In the contest, North Dakota went 46.2 percent from the field and 80.0 percent at the charity stripe, while also hitting 45.5 percent from downtown. Comparatively, Troy shot 44.4 percent from the floor, 31.8 percent from deep and 64.3 percent from the free throw line.
The Fighting Hawks carried a 38-31 lead into the break. By the 15:27 mark of the second half, UND had increased its lead to 13 at 52-39, following back-to-back triples and then Norman adding eight points in a row with only a layup separating two of his triples.
With 11:25 left in the game, North Dakota looked to be in control, leading by 14 (59-45). Shortly after that, the Hawks went on a three-minute scoring drought and saw its lead dwindle to 61-54 with 7:14 remaining in the contest. Before that point, Keiffer Punter entered the contest for the Trojans for the first time of the afternoon and started providing a spark off the bench.
Over the next 5:30, Punter recorded 13 points and a steal, cutting the Hawk lead down to 68-61 with 3:38 remaining. Following a Troy make from beyond the arc and an old-fashioned three-point play, the North Dakota lead sat at 68-67 with 1:21 left.
A Sueker driving layup increased the lead to 70-67 and then the Hawks put Punter at the line with 33 seconds remaining. Punter sank both freebies to keep the score within one at 70-69. Sueker drew a foul with nine seconds remaining and sank both free throws to extend the lead at 72-69.
The Hawks fouled with five seconds to go and the Trojans made both, bringing the tally to 72-71. Nero was quickly fouled on the inbounds pass and then went 2-for-2 at the line to increase the lead to 74-71 with four seconds left.
UND fouled once again to put TU at the line with one-and-one. Duke Deen made the first at the line for Troy, before intentionally missing the second one and the ball getting knocked out of bounds. The officials had to converse to decide who the ball went off of and it was ruled off of Troy, so North Dakota got the ball with one second left. The Hawks successfully inbounded the pass into the front court and held on for the 74-72 win.
North Dakota returns to action at the Paradise Classic on Saturday, facing Florida Atlantic in a 5 p.m. (CT) tilt.