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RENO, Nev.—The Big Sky Conference era for the University of North Dakota's men's basketball is over. During their time in the league, the Fighting Hawks put together an impressive resume for their future colleagues—the teams in the Summit League. UND's time in the Big Sky ended Thursday, March 8, when top-seed Montana downed the Hawks 84-76 in the quarterfinal round of the Big Sky tournament at the Reno Events Center. UND came in as the defending champion and was attempting to continue its successful run in Big Sky tournament play.
RENO, Nev.—The University of North Dakota men's basketball program joined the Big Sky Conference in 2012. UND was a relative newcomer to Division I basketball at the time, having spent a few seasons in the now-defunct Great West Conference—a league that amounted to nothing more than a scheduling alliance for programs looking for a permanent home.
GRAND FORKS—The University of North Dakota men's basketball team practiced Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 27, then hit the road for two more Big Sky Conference games. But this road trip will be different from the others this season. It could last nearly two weeks—and that's a good thing if does. After games tonight at California State University Sacramento and Saturday, March 3, at Portland State University, UND will head directly for Reno, Nev., for next week's Big Sky tournament.
GRAND FORKS — Saturday began with the University of North Dakota's lone senior, 6-foot-9 Dale Jones, suffering from back spasms. He wouldn't be able to play his final home game with his teammates. Saturday ended with UND's 79-66 loss against Northern Colorado before 1,895 fans at The Betty, a game in which the Fighting Hawks failed to make a 3-pointer. For the first time in the program's Division I era, UND was held scoreless from beyond the arc.
GRAND FORKS—In 2012, the University of North Dakota was accepted into the Big Sky Conference. It was the lifeline UND needed as it was transitioning from Division II to Division I athletics. And it's been a good Division I home for the UND men's basketball program, which—for the most part—has been at its best in the league's postseason tournament. But UND's days in the league are numbered. Their game Saturday, Feb. 24, against Northern Colorado at The Betty will be the last time the UND men's basketball team plays a regular-season Big Sky contest at home.
GRAND FORKS—The University of North Dakota and Northern Arizona are two teams that have been in a growing process throughout the season. That's probably why mistakes were made by both teams at critical times during their Big Sky Conference game Saturday, Feb. 17, before 1,970 fans at The Betty.
GRAND FORKS—Before the game, there was little doubt as to the best team in the Big Sky Conference. Montana had put to rest any doubt with 10-straight wins—including six consecutive on the road. The Griz left The Betty on Saturday happy as they took a hard-earned 72-67 win over North Dakota before 2,089 fans. It was their 11th straight triumph and school-record seventh consecutive road victory.
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota begins the second half of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball season Thursday night, Feb. 1, against Montana State. The Fighting Hawks are 2-7 at the break and 7-14 overall. But the past three months can be forgiven, considering the Hawks—under coach Brian Jones—usually play their best basketball in February, which is labeled as the moving month in the collegiate ranks. Also, Jones can remind his players of his coaching days at Iowa, where he was part of a program that caught fire in Mach.
GRAND FORKS — It's never good to get beat at the buzzer, as the University of North Dakota did last week when Northern Colorado's Andre Spight hit a half-court shot at the horn to give the Bears a 94-91 overtime win over the Fighting Hawks. However, the sting of that loss was eased a bit by UND's overall play. For the fourth consecutive game, UND's overall performance was solid—giving hope that the Hawks have turned the corner as the Big Sky Conference season nears the halfway mark.
GRAND FORKS — The University of North Dakota and North Dakota State are nearing the heart of their respective conference seasons. The Fighting Hawks are six games into their Big Sky Conference season while NDSU is four games into Summit League play. A nonconference game for either team at this point of the season isn't ideal. But playing your rival makes the nonconference game a lot easier to take.