UND to play Northern Iowa in CITGRAND FORKS — After the University of North Dakota lost a heartbreaking Big Sky Conference semifinal game to Weber State last week, North Dakota coach Brian Jones said his team deserved a chance to keep playing.
By: Wayne Nelson, Forum News Service
GRAND FORKS — After the University of North Dakota lost a heartbreaking Big Sky Conference semifinal game to Weber State last week, North Dakota coach Brian Jones said his team deserved a chance to keep playing.
“We’re playing our best basketball right now,” Jones said after the game. “I want to continue to keep playing for our senior class, which has meant so much to our program through the Division I transition.”
UND will keep playing.
North Dakota accepted an at-large berth in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament on Sunday. North Dakota will play a first-round game against Northern Iowa. The game is scheduled for Tuesday night.
The game has an instant connection. Northern Iowa is the alma mater of Jones while UND is the alma mater of Panthers’ coach Ben Jacobson — a former player and assistant coach for the Green and White.
UND made the CIT field for the third straight season. North Dakota played Air Force two years ago before taking on Drake last season.
This will be the second meeting of the season between the teams. Northern Iowa beat UND 72-47 in November, but a lot has changed since then.
UND was without leading scorer Troy Huff, who broke his jaw in the season opener at Kansas State. Huff eventually returned and became one of the top players in the Big Sky — earning unanimous first-team all-conference honors.
Also, UND (16-16 overall) is at full health since its opener. North Dakota is 14-8 in its last 22 games and finished third in the Big Sky with a 12-8 record.
Northern Iowa comes in at 18-14 and has not played since early March in the Missouri Valley Conference postseason tournament, won by Creighton — coached by another former UND assistant, Greg McDermott.
Against Weber State, UND perhaps played its best basketball of its Division I era. Weber State fell to Montana 67-64 on Saturday in the Big Sky title game, a win that sent Montana to a first-round NCAA tournament matchup against Syracuse.
“The way we played (against Weber) shows we’re playing our best basketball,” Jones said. “This team deserves a CIT bid. We’ve proven we can play with anybody. What we’ve done down the stretch with healthy bodies proves it.”
Huff, Brandon Brekke and Josh Schuler were starters at the beginning of the season. Because of injuries, Huff missed nine games, Brekke 15 and Schuler 6.
Tuesday's first round games
Eastern Kentucky (24-9) @ Gardner Webb (21-12) 6 pm
Fairfield (19-15) @ Kent State (20-13) 6 pm
Savannah State (19-14) @ East Carolina (18-12) 6 pm
Rider (18-14) @ Hartford (17-13) 6 pm
Oakland (16-16) @ Youngstown State (17-15) 6:05 pm
Boston University (17-12) @ Loyola MD (21-11) 6:30 pm
Tennessee State (18-14) @ Evansville (18-14) 7 pm
North Dakota (16-16) @ Northern Iowa (18-14) 7 pm
Wednesday's first round games
Elon (21-11) @ Canisius (18-13) 6 pm
Green Bay (18-15) @ Bradley (16-16) 7 pm
South Alabama (17-12) @ Tulane (19-14) 7 pm
Chicago State (11-21) @ Illinois-Chicago (17-15) 7 pm
Oral Roberts (18-14) @ UT Arlington (19-13) 7:30 pm
High Point (17-13) @ UC Irvine (20-15) 9 pm
Cal Poly (18-13) @ Weber State (26-6) 9 pm
Air Force (17-13) @ Hawaii (17-14) 11 pm
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