UND looks for first Division I postseason win Wednesday against UC Irvine
GRAND FORKS -- Only once in his career has Carson Shanks played against someone taller. "I remember back in 10th grade playing against a kid 7-foot-2, and that was eye-opening because I had never played against anyone taller than me," said Shanks...
GRAND FORKS - Only once in his career has Carson Shanks played against someone taller.
“I remember back in 10th grade playing against a kid 7-foot-2, and that was eye-opening because I had never played against anyone taller than me,” said Shanks, the University of North Dakota 7-foot sophomore center.
Tonight, for the second time in his career, Shanks won’t be the tallest player on the court. That distinction belongs to UC Irvine’s 7-foot-6, 300-pound center Mamadou Ndiaye - a player with an 8-foot-3 wingspan.
UND hosts UC Irvine in a first-round CollegeInsider.com Tournament game at The Betty.
UND is 17-15 while UC Irvine is 25-9. The Anteaters, with a ratings percentage index of 75, surprisingly were not included in the NIT.
“I would say if there was a top seed in this tournament, UC Irvine would be it,” said UND coach Brian Jones.
The 25-9 Anteaters tied for the Big West Conference regular-season title with Hawaii but fell to Long Beach State in the semifinal round of the league’s postseason tournament.
Ndiaye draws the headlines, but UC Irvine surrounds the Dakar, Senegal, native with considerable talent. Ndiaye (12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and guard Luke Nelson (13.3 ppg) were named to the all-Big West Conference first team while senior guard Alex Young (10.0 ppg) was a second-team selection.
Ndiaye, the Big West defensive player of the season, does present UND a unique and difficult challenge.
UC Irvine likely will play a zone defense against UND, with Ndiaye anchoring the middle.
“How do you defend against that?” asked Jones. “It’s about our concepts and what we’ve done against zones this season. We’ll have to try our best to make it hard on (Ndiaye). When he catches the ball, it’s nothing like we’ve ever seen or gone up against. We’ve had success against zones this season. But it’s a different game because of the shots he blocks and the shots he deters at the rim.”
Ndiaye, a junior, has 84 blocked shots this season and is UC Irvine’s career leader with 215.
Shanks, meanwhile, will likely have to alter his game in the paint against Ndiaye.
“You have to face the basket on him,” said Shanks. “You have to try and get around him, use a lot of shot fakes and get him off balance.
“On defense, the main thing is you can’t let him catch it deep. If he catches it within the charge circle, he’s going to dunk the basketball. You have to try and push him off the block and make it as tough as you can. You have to run the floor and tire him out.”
UND’s transition game has been effective this season. The Fighting Hawks often use a four-guard lineup, with all-Big Sky Conference first-team selection Quinton Hooker (20.2 ppg) leading the way. Point guard Geno Crandall (10.4) is also in double figures.
The Hawks have also received standout play from forward Drick Bernstine (9.8 ppg) down the stretch and especially in last week’s Big Sky tournament, where the 6-foot-7 forward set a conference tournament single-game rebound record with 21.
UND is making its fifth postseason appearance since becoming a Division I program. All five appearances have been in the CIT.
UND, however, is looking for its first postseason win against perhaps the toughest opponent it’s faced in the CIT. Also, the Anteaters may be one of the tallest teams UND has faced in a number years. The Anteaters, led by Ndiaye, have four players taller than 6-10.
“I’ve heard (Ndiaye) is an NBA guy so it’ll be fun to play against him,” said Shanks.