Gaining confidence at home

UND men’s basketball team plays on home court after splitting road series


Sophomore Quinton Hooker (left) stands with his teammates during the national anthem at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center earlier this season. Photo by Nicholas Nelson/The Dakota Student.

The UND men’s basketball team didn’t end its last homestand the way it had hoped.

After three losses on its home court, followed by a split on the road last weekend against Idaho and Eastern Washington, North Dakota has returned home for a chance to redeem itself.

The team faced Weber State yesterday and will play a battle against Idaho State at 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center.

“It’s big,” sophomore Quinton Hooker said. “It’s moving week, as coach likes to say … It’s definitely a big week for us. We’re trying to move up in the ranks and the standings. It’s going to be fun.”

While the string of defeats wasn’t a strong point, it was the final minutes of each game that defined UND success. It was also the first time the team dropped three straight games at the Betty since the 2009-10 season.

With another chance to play in front of a home crowd, the team has been building motivation to end these games differently.

“I think you look at all three games that we lost, and it came down to the final two minutes and finding ways to make a big play,” UND coach Brian Jones said. “I think that comes from veteran leadership and confidence … Our fans have been great at home. The past home game (Jan. 17), we had one of the best crowds. Not only from a numbers standpoint, they were vocal and our guys truly enjoyed that. We want to continue to show our growth and our appreciation for them.”

In last weekend’s split, North Dakota snapped a four-game losing streak in a 71-63 victory over Idaho State on Jan. 22.

“It definitely gave us some confidence,” Hooker said. “I think having all those games on the road during the nonconference helped us here … We’re used to playing in atmospheres where it’s against us, so it’s always great to split on the road.”

Although Hooker only tallied seven points and ended his streak of six consecutive double-figure scoring games end last Thursday, he jumped in with 16 points against Eastern Washington just a few days later. Hooker also tallied a career-high eight rebounds and seven assists.

An emerging leader on the team, Hooker attributes his success to the team.

“It all comes down to my teammates,” he said. “They’re pushing me in practice … ways to get better on and off the court. Not only am I getting better, our team is getting better.”

For the team, only a handful of home games remain after this weekend — providing little time to turn around the season.

“Our time is running out,” Jones said. “We’ve just got to continue being better each time we step on the floor.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].