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UND's Quinton Hooker leads Hawks past Northern Arizona

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--During the postgame handshakes, Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy asked the Univerisity of North Dakota's Quinton Hooker when he's going to graduate.

University of North Dakota's Corey Baldwin (1), right, turns the corner of Northern Arizona's JoJo Anderson (4) during a matchup in Grand Forks, ND on Thursday, January 5, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)
University of North Dakota's Corey Baldwin (1), right, turns the corner of Northern Arizona's JoJo Anderson (4) during a matchup in Grand Forks, ND on Thursday, January 5, 2017. (Joshua Komer / Grand Forks Herald)

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-During the postgame handshakes, Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy asked the Univerisity of North Dakota's Quinton Hooker when he's going to graduate.

He knew the answer. Still, Hooker's graduation isn't soon enough for NAU and the rest of the Big Sky Conference.

For UND, Hooker's graduation will be too soon as the senior guard again made the big plays down the stretch in leading the Fighting Hawks to a 68-63 Big Sky win over NAU on Thursday night before 1,518 fans at The Betty.

Hooker finished with a game-high 20 points, 11 coming in the final 3:19 with the game hanging in the balance.

"That's my expectation of him, being the leader and type of player he is," said UND coach Brian Jones. "He wants those types of shots."

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UND improved to 2-1 in the Big Sky and 7-6 overall while NAU dropped to 0-2 and 3-12.

NAU's record aside, the win was anything but easy for UND. The Fighting Hawks led most of the way and carved out a nine-point advantage in the first half. But a sloppy start to the second half by UND allowed NAU to rally. The Lumberjacks eventually took a 44-41 lead on a Jordyn Martin 3-pointer with 10:41 to play.

But that's about the time when UND found an extra gear. And it was Hooker and Conner Avants (17 points, 9 rebounds) who fueled the drive.

An Avants' free throw with 8:12 left gave UND the lead for good at 45-44. The Hawks, however, couldn't put away NAU, led by Marcus DeBerry's 19 points.

Hooker hit a 3-pointer at 3:19 for a 56-50 lead; he hit another triple with 1:54 left for a 63-55 advantage and then dropped in a 15-footer with 1:04 remaining for a 65-60 advantage.

DeBerry banked in a 3-pointer with 42 seconds to play but UND's Geno Crandall sealed it with two free throws with 15.1 seconds to go.

"It's always good to come out with a win," said Hooker. "But tonight, our energy wasn't there. It's going to be tough to get wins in the Big Sky this season. We can't let things bother us, whether it's ourselves, or if the crowd isn't into it, or if it's a cold day. We have to create our own energy on defense."

UND led 33-26 at the break but the Fighting Hawks' inability to finish at the rim was costly. By Jones' count, UND missed 11 layups or close-range shots in the opening 20 minutes.

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"In the first half, we executed well but missed 11 layups," said Jones. "That took the wind out of our sails a little bit. We were fine defensively. Holding a team to 63 points should be good enough to win. But we have to tighten up our offense; finishing at the rim and at the foul line (where UND went 15-of 23)."

The bottom line, though, was a win.

"This league is going to be tough this year," said Jones. "There is a lot of parity. "We have to continue to handle having a target on our back. We're going to have to embrace that and understand we're going to get a lot of teams' best shots."

UND will face Southern Utah on Saturday. SUU beat Northern Colorado 78-76 on the road Thursday night.

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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