With the number one ranking on the line, the Big Sky Conference’s top teams faced off on Saturday Feb 18.
North Dakota secured the top spot with a 77–68 victory over Weber State University in front of over 7500 screaming fans.
Both teams entered the game with a 16–8 record. Weber State held the Big Sky’s top spot due to a better conference record, but North Dakota had bragging rights from an earlier season win over the Wildcats.
“North Dakota is a very good basketball team,” Wildcat Head Coach Randy Rahe said. “This is one of the best teams they’ve had in about 15 years, and they are ready to go.”
The first 15 minutes was an elite display of defense from the Wildcats and the Fighting Hawks with the Hawks pulling ahead 27–21.
With 6 minutes left in the first half, WSU senior Kyndahl Hill brought the home crowd back to life with a jumper on one end, followed up by a monstrous block on the defensive side.
This sparked the Wildcats 11–2 run in the final minutes of the first half, giving Weber State a 32–29 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats forced 10 turnovers in the first half and held the Fighting Hawks to 39.4 percent from field goal range while completing 53.8 percent of their own shots.
Uncharacteristically, the Wildcats only shot two 3-point attempts, missing both.
The Fighting Hawks dominated in the second half, scoring six points off three turnovers within a minute. This began a 15–5 run, giving the Hawks a 54–41 lead with 10 minutes to play.
The Wildcats found another spark when freshman Jerrick Harding stole the ball and led a fast break that ended with a dunk by sophomore Zach Braxton.
This charge led the Wildcat’s back into the game, bringing them down only two points.
The Wildcats surge would end up falling just short. Weber State shot just 37 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range in the second half.
The loss dropped them to second place in the Big Sky conference. Senior Jeremy Senglin lead the team with 22 points, shooting 7–14 from the field but only 1–6 from beyond the arc.
“I was trying to stay aggressive,” Senglin said. “Sometimes shots don’t fall, and when shots aren’t falling, you need to get to the rim. And that’s what I was trying to do.”
Shooting wasn’t the only factor in Saturday night’s loss. Weber State was out rebounded 38–28 and allowed North Dakota to grab 12 offensive rebounds that contributed to 11 second chance points.
“We gave away too many to rebounds,” Hill said. “We gave them space and allowed them to get too many offensive rebounds.”
Hill secured the game’s only double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats have four regular season games left. The next home game will be March 2. at 7 p.m. against rival Montana.