Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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RENO, Nev.—UND opened the Big Sky Conference season with a crushing loss at Portland State. The 37-point setback in late December was one of the program's more lopsided losses in years. But UND rebounded and went on to win the league's regular-season title. UND and Portland State met again in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky tournament Thursday, and the Hawks played like a team that won the regular-season title and earned the No. 1 seed in the tournament.
GRAND FORKS, N.D.—With a conference title hanging in the balance and a postseason tournament No. 1 seed on the line, there was no way Quinton Hooker—one of the University of North Dakota's more dynamic players in years—was going to be denied. As usual, he wasn't. Hooker led UND to an 82-73 win over Portland State on Saturday before 2,870 fans at The Betty Engelstad Sioux Arena-- a win that gave the Fighting Hawks the Big Sky Conference regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in next week's postseason tournament in Reno, Nev.
GRAND FORKS — It's that time of the season when it's acceptable for teams to watch the scoreboard, whether they admit it or not. North Dakota, which had a bye on Thursday, likely had its eye on the Weber State-Eastern Washington game the same night. Eastern Washington downed Weber, a win that significantly helps the Fighting Hawks in their quest to win the regular-season Big Sky title.
GRAND FORKS — North Dakota took care of its Big Sky Conference men's basketball business at home the past two weeks. Now, UND has a chance to put itself in position to possibly seal the deal this weekend on the road. The Fighting Hawks are 10-3 in the league and 15-8 overall as they prepare for road games Thursday night at Idaho State and Saturday at league power Weber State. UND is a half game behind first-place Weber (10-2, 15-8). With a win tonight, UND would have a late-season showdown at Weber on Saturday for at least a share of the Big Sky lead.
GRAND FORKS — It's been an up-and-down season for North Dakota's Carson Shanks. There was no question, however, where Shanks' season was trending Saturday at The Betty. The 7-foot junior was trending upward, as his play off the bench was the spark in UND's 88-65 Big Sky Conference men's basketball win over Idaho before 2,345 fans. Shanks finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. His play during a decisive 13-2 first-half run by UND was the difference.
GRAND FORKS — North Dakota just played two of the more dynamic offensive players in the Big Sky Conference — Eastern Washington's Jacob Wiley and Bogdan Bliznyuk. The trend of high-scoring league players facing UND, however, continues today as the Fighting Hawks host Idaho — led by junior Victor Sanders, who is averaging 25.5 points in Big Sky play.
GRAND FORKS — Quinton Hooker realizes he has a limited amount of home games remaining in his North Dakota men's basketball career. So he wants to make the most of his remaining appearances left at The Betty. Few will forget his latest performance, one that led UND past Eastern Washington 95-86 on Thursday night before 1,891 fans. The game was a showdown of sorts, with both UND and EWU tied for second place in the Big Sky Conference entering the night. The win improved UND to 9-3 in the league and 14-8 overall while EWU slipped to 8-4 and 16-9.
GRAND FORKS — On Thursday, Feb. 9, there are 97 Division I men's basketball games scheduled in the country. Only four of the 97 contests feature matchups between conference opponents with eight more more league wins. One of the four is set for The Betty, where North Dakota hosts Eastern Washington. Both teams are 8-3 in the Big Sky Conference. UND is 13-8 overall while Eastern Washington is 16-8.
GRAND FORKS — For nearly 35 minutes, North Dakota didn't give its fans much to cheer about. That changed drastically in the closing minutes. Led by another surge from Quinton Hooker — the Big Sky Conference preseason player of the year — UND somehow managed to overcome a subpar 35-minute performance and rally for an 87-77 overtime win over Northern Colorado on Saturday before 2,352 fans at The Betty.
GRAND FORKS — When it comes to scenery, there aren't many better trips for the University of North Dakota men's basketball than the one that takes the Fighting Hawks each season to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. But we're talking scenery, not the demands of travel and two games in three days with vastly different altitudes.