Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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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.
RENO, Nev.—The odds were against the University of North Dakota, which trailed Montana State by 19 points with just over 10 minutes to play. When the odds are against you in Reno, sometimes it's best to just walk away. UND, however, didn't walk away. Instead, the Fighting Hawks overcame the odds as they have done time after time in March the past few years. On Tuesday, UND rallied for a stunning 76-74 win over Montana State in the first round of the Big Sky Conference men's basketball tournament at the Reno Events Center.
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 — 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.
GRAND FORKS — Nearly a month ago, University of North Dakota players left the McCarthey Athletic Center on the campus of Gonzaga University feeling pretty good. They just pushed No. 15 Gonzaga to the limit before falling in overtime. With a performance like that, UND felt confident heading into Big Sky Conference play. Somehow, UND players lost that feeling as the Hawks dropped their first four league games—all by double digits.
GRAND FORKS — The good news was that the University of North Dakota shot the basketball better, shooting 43 percent overall and 37 percent on 3-point attempts. That's still not great, but it was considerably better than the Fighting Hawks' showing two nights earlier against Idaho and for much of the season as well. However, there was bad news, too. UND committed 21 turnovers—a handful at crunch time—and that was the difference in Eastern Washington's 77-64 win over the Hawks on Sunday, Dec. 31, in a Big Sky Conference game before 1,548 fans at The Betty.
SPOKANE, Wash.—As a handful of University of North Dakota basketball fans visited with Creighton coach Greg McDermott recently in Omaha, discussion turned toward Gonzaga—the Fighting Hawks' opponent Saturday, Dec. 16, at the McCarthy Center. Creighton's size and length impressed the UND fans, who later watched the Bluejays rip the Hawks 111-68. "Wait until you guys play Gonzaga," said McDermott, a former UND assistant whose team lost a 91-74 decision to the Bulldogs earlier this month. "They're a lot bigger."