Home Sweet Home For UND Basketball

Back-to-back wins at home end losing streak

James DeArman, Sports Writer

For the University of North Dakota Men’s basketball team there is no place like home. After a rough stretch of four straight loses, three of which coming away, the Fighting Hawks returned to the friendly confines of the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center for matchups with the bottom half of the Summit League. With wins against the University of Denver and Western Illinois, the Hawks showed that home is where the heart is.

 In Thursday night’s contest the Pioneers of the University of Denver traveled to Grand Forks to face an ailing UND desperate to end a four-game losing streak and keep pace in the Summit league. The Hawks first win since the start of the new year was lead by a career night from Kienan Walter. The senior from Vancouver, Wash. was feeling it from deep as he uncorked 12 three-pointers, hitting the mark on six of them. Combined with his perfect shooting from the line left him with 25 points on the night, a career high. 

UND leading scorer and workhorse, Marlon Stewart, had yet another great performance putting up 19 points as well as seven rebounds and seven assists. Hats came off for the senior who became just the 38th player in school history to score a career 1000 points. 

The first half ended just the way coach Paul Sather would have drawn it up. The opposing Pioneers were just able to put up 22 points by the half time break and committed 11 turnovers to give the Hawks a 33-22 lead. 

The second half was not as kind as the first. Denver came out shooting hot and stormed back to take a four-point lead after a 21-9 run where they shot 56 percent from the field. They were lead by their senior guard Ade Murkey who scored a season-high 29 points along with five rebounds. 

The Hawks were saved this night by their long game as there were able to overcome a 36 percent shooting percentage from the floor by hitting 10 treys on the night and shooting an outstanding 28-30 from the charity stripe. An offensive barrage midway through the second half was enough to crawl back to the win 78-71. This broke their four-game losing streak and complete their season sweep of Denver.

On Saturday night’s win against Western Illinois, Marlon Stewart took center stage yet again. The senior lived up to his hometown’s history, Rock Island, Ill., home of the country’s largest government owned weapons arsenal. Stewart brought out the cannons to put home 23 points and pull down the double double with 10 rebounds. UND has found if you need a scoring outbreak look to the man from the arsenal. 

Stewart wasn’t the only 20 point scorer on the night as Center Philip Rebraca finished with 22 points on the night. In all, the Hawks had four players above 15 points in this balanced attack. Where the game was won was from the free throw line. UND continued their excellent shooting from the line and hit 26 of their 33 attempts as Western Illinois hit nine of only 10 attempted free throws on the night. Opening up the second half with a 13-0 run, the Hawks free throw shooting and disciplined basketball carried them to the 83-77 win. 

After a winning week the Hawks move to 10-12 and 4-4 in conference play and 6-1 at home. The momentum from these wins will hopefully carry with them in their next two games against the two teams that sandwich them in the standings. UND will be back home on February 6 against Oral Roberts.