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UND prepares for a better shot from NDSU in the second meeting between the men's basketball rivals

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--North Dakota beat rival North Dakota State by 18 points nine days ago in Fargo. The rivals meet again Friday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. But UND coach Brian Jones isn't buying the idea that his team will be favor...

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-North Dakota beat rival North Dakota State by 18 points nine days ago in Fargo. The rivals meet again Friday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. But UND coach Brian Jones isn't buying the idea that his team will be favored to sweep the series.

"The stress level is as high for us as the first time we played them," said Jones. "Now, there are probably expectations by fans and others. But I've been a part of rivalries where you win on each other's floor.

"Can we handle winning down there and then coming back on our own floor and having the same focus but more urgency to play better? I know North Dakota State will have more urgency. You know they're going to come in and try to prove that game in Fargo wasn't their best effort.

"We'll have to understand that the effort we showed in Fargo a week ago won't be good enough."

UND beat NDSU 74-56 at the Scheels Center on Dec.7. In that game, UND shot well and defended well. And NDSU had an off night shooting, making only 1 of 20 three-point attempts.

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Both leading scorers-UND's Quinton Hooker and NDSU's Paul Miller-had off nights offensively. Both were 1-for-10 from the floor, but Hooker made an impact with his game-high nine assists.

"I have a feeling both guys will be better and will be dialed in," said Jones.

Playing an opponent nine days apart-let alone a rival-can be difficult, said UND sophomore center Conner Avants.

"It's tough," he said. "We ran a lot of sets. And if you decide to run those same sets, they've scouted it and played against it. They probably have our calls. It will come down to who out-toughs who."

Both teams have had solid starts to their seasons.

UND is 5-3 while NDSU is 7-4 after rallying past UC Davis 74-70 on Wednesday night in Fargo.

The outcome of the games also could play a role toward the end of the season when postseason berths are on the line.

"I feel they're going to be a quality team in the Summit and if we stay healthy and together we'll be quality in the Big Sky," said Jones, referring to the teams' respective leagues. "No game is bigger than the other but these are statement games. They set you up for the big picture, postseason play of some kind.

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"And you have to beat quality opponents on the road and at home to get postseason bids."

Hooker leads UND, averaging 17.4 points. Geno Crandall averages 14.7 points for the Fighting Hawks while Corey Baldwin is the third player in double figures at 10.0.

Miller leads NDSU at 11.2 ppg while Dexter Werner is other double-figure scorer for NDSU (10.7). Werner had a monster game in Fargo, scoring 30 of his team's 56 points.

Werner's inside play was not lost on Avants, who like Werner, is an undersized post player.

"That makes you a lot more competitive," said Avants of the inside rematch. "We're ready to get another chance to defend."

Shortly before the season, both programs announced they would play each other twice each season. The spacing between the games going forward, however, may change.

"As we move forward in this scenario, Dave (Richman) and I agreed to play one game in November and one in December so there is growth for both teams," said Jones.

Related Topics: UND BASKETBALL
Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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