Men’s basketball surprising Big Sky at 2-2

UND captain Quinton Hooker drives the lane for the easy lay up against Waldorf. Photo by Nick Nelson/The Dakota Student

The Fighting Hawks men’s basketball team was still hard at work on the court over winter break.

After a short break following its Dec. 22 loss to Kansas State, the team returned to the Betty to start the second half of their season.

So far, the Fighting Hawks have fared well since turning the calendar to 2016. On Jan. 2, the Hawks downed the Washington State Eagles 79-71. The Eagles were the 2015 Big Sky Champions, making the victory even more sweet.

“This was a big day for our program,” UND head coach Brian Jones said.

On Jan. 7, the Hawks Traveled to Ogden, Utah, to face Weber State, who currently sits at second in the Big Sky. The Wildcats came into the game winners of four games in a row and added their fifth with a 74-62 win over UND. Junior Quinton Hooker had a big day, scoring 23 points for the Hawks.

The Fighting Hawks bounced back on Jan. 9, picking up their first conference road win of the season at Idaho State, winning 84-76.

UND shot a season high 59.6 percent from the field. The offensive onslaught was led by Quinton Hooker once again, scoring 24 points. This was the 20th straight game that the junior captain had scored double digit points. Corey Baldwin added a career high 22 points for UND and Carson Shanks scored a career high 16 points as well.

“I’m proud of the team because that is a good Idaho State team,” Jones said. “We got a big night from Corey Baldwin and we established Carson Shanks early and those things really paid off for us.”

Since Dec. 17, UND has gone 3-3 and sits in fifth in the Big Sky Conference, three spots above where they were voted in the preseason poll.

Now with the new semester in full swing, the Fighting Hawks will come back home to face Big Sky foe Montana State. The Bobcats come into the matchup off a 77-70 loss to Portland State and are sitting at a 7-9 record, which puts them one spot behind the Hawks in Big Sky standings.

The assumption that the home team will have the advantage in this game is a misnomer as of late between these two teams. Over the last five games, the away team has always won and the Hawks will fight to reverse that trend.

Both UND and Montana State own 2-2 records in the Big Sky Conference and are looking for the win that will put them  above .500 in the conference.

Last season, Marcus Colbert hit a heart breaking shot at the buzzer to give the Bobcats a 80-78 victory over the Fighting Hawks on Valentine’s Day.

On Saturday, the University of Montana Grizzlies, come to Grand Forks to face UND. The Grizzlies have a 9-6 record and an impressive 4-0 conference record. Coming into Saturday’s game, the Grizzlies have also won their last five games.

Last season in Grand Forks, the Grizzlies barely came away with the win, 65-61 over the Fighting Hawks.

The game against Montana State will start tonight at 7 p.m. with the Montana game at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Adam Gunderman is a sports writer for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]