Thanks in large part to stifling defense, the University of North Dakota men’s basketball team continued their impressive 2020 Summit League tournament run with a dominant victory over Matt Holba and the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons.
Unlike their first-round game against South Dakota, UND was the favorite heading into their matchup with Purdue Fort Wayne. Similar to UND, PFW shocked the Summit League basketball world by pulling off a huge upset in the first round. They beat the no. 2 seed, South Dakota State, 77-74.
This game had a different vibe to it than the first round game did for UND. They looked far more comfortable than they did against USD. You could tell they had some more confidence, some more swagger. They knew they belonged in this game, and they knew they were the better team. That was evident from the jump, as the Hawks soared to an early 26-11 lead and never looked back.
It was Marlon Stewart that led the way for UND in their first game of the tournament, but it was a different senior who stepped up in the semis. Kienan Walter scored North Dakota’s first 11 points. He drained three triples in UND’s first four possessions and then blew by his defender and got to the rim, drawing a foul and knocking down a pair of free throws. He was having his way with the Purdue Fort Wayne defense. Walter finished the night with a game-high 20 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field, 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point land and 6-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers. It was a masterpiece from Walter.
The Mastodons hung tough, keeping the game relatively close by going on a few mini runs, but they were never able to fully get themselves back in the game. Everytime PFW got a few consecutive buckets, UND had an answer.
Marlon Stewart didn’t provide the same heroics as he did in the win over South Dakota, but he was no slouch in the semis. He finished the game with 15 points, four boards and four assists and provided UND with timely buckets as the game wore on in the second half, including a tough hanging floater to give the Hawks an 18-point lead with just under four minutes remaining. The crafty finish prompted a well-deserved flex from the senior floor general.
Another guy that made a big impact for the second night in a row was 6-foot-4 freshman Brady Danielson. He didn’t have a flashy game, but he made winning plays time and time again. With five minutes left in the second half and the Hawks up 11, Danielson came up with one of the savviest defensive plays of the tournament.
Danielson’s man curled off a double screen and then promptly pivoted and set a screen for the screener. It was a brilliant play, but Danielson read it like a book. He jumped the passing lane, stole the ball and delivered an on-target pass to a streaking Ethan Igbanugo, leading to an easy fastbreak layup.
Now, the Hawks will take on a much tougher opponent — the North Dakota State Bison — in the Summit League tournament championship with a trip to the NCAA tournament on the line. It will be the 300th meeting of all time between UND and NDSU. Grab your popcorn.