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Wayne Nelson / Forum Communications Co., Published November 24 2010

Men's basketball: Sioux getting closer, yet fall to IPFW men

GRAND FORKS – In the final minutes, the University of North Dakota inched its way closer to IPFW in hopes of pulling of a second-straight program-turning win since the Sioux move to Division I.

But IPFW, no stranger to the Division I move, managed some major strides of its own down the stretch – making plays an established Division I program makes at crunch time.

IPFW held off a late UND rally to beat the Sioux 71-61 on Tuesday night at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center before 1,803 fans, a win that improved the Mastodons to 2-2 after a couple of close losses against Cincinnati and Xavier.

UND dropped to 2-2, a disappointing loss following its win against Sacramento State last week. That win was the first time the Sioux had defeated an established D-I program since its recent move up to Division I.

But a second such win wasn’t in the cards, as IPFW’s polished and balanced offense was one step ahead of the Sioux most of the night.

“In the first half, we weren’t as tough as we needed to be and showed our youth,” UND coach Brian Jones said. “In the second half, we did a great job of bouncing back. We got used to the way IPFW plays and how physical they are. We’re right there. We’re close.”

IPFW, coached by former Indiana player Dane Fife, beat the Sioux 80-60 last season in Fort Wayne, Ind. The rematch was closer, perhaps an indication of UND’s improvement.

“Coach Fife said to me after the game that he thought we were on our way,” Jones said. “They’ve had their growing pains, too. Last year, they had their first winning season (in Division I).”

IPFW placed four players in double figures, led by Ben Botts’ 16 points. His scoring early led the Mastodons to a game-opening 12-2 run. But Botts had plenty of help the rest of the way as three other IPFW players – Zach Plackemeier, Trey McCorkle and Frank Gaines – combined to score 58 more points.

UND was led by Jamal Webb’s 15 points. Derek Benter added 11.

The Mastodons, a Summit League team, led by 13 points late in the first half, but the Sioux received a momentum boost at the first-half buzzer on Troy Huff’s 3-pointer from the half-court line.

UND closed to within eight points a couple of times in the second half. And the Sioux made a late surge in the closing minutes, cutting IPFW’s lead to 65-61 on two Aaron Anderson free throws with 1:36 to play. But IPFW closed out the win by hitting free throws in the final 90 seconds.

Free throws were UND’s downfall. The Sioux made 15 of 24 from the line, while IPFW made 23 of 29.

“It was there for us,” UND junior Pat Mitchell said. “But we’re getting better.”

IPFW (2-2): Gaines 5-11 3-7 14, Plackemeier 4-10 4-4 15, Peckinpaugh 0-1 1-2 1, Botts 5-10 4-4 16, McCorkle 3-9 9-10 15, Smeathers 0-1 0-0 0, Mixon 2-5 0-0 5, Kovalov 1-2 0-0 3, Boyd 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 20-50 23-29 71.

NORTH DAKOTA (2-2): Webb 6-12 0-1 15, Goodman 0-2 2-2 2, Schuler 3-10 0-0 7, Benter 3-6 4-4 11, Mitchell 0-4 3-6 3, Anderson 2-6 3-6 7, Haugen 1-1 0-0 2, Huff 3-9 2-2 9, Wilmer 0-0 0-0 0, Brekke 1-1 0-0 2, Archer 1-1 1-3 3. Totals 20-52 15-24 61.

Halftime–IPFW 40-30. 3-Point Goals–IPFW 8-20 (Plackemeier 3-7, Botts 2-5, Kovalov 1-2, Mixon 1-2, Gaines 1-3, Smeathers 0-1), North Dakota 6-19 (Webb 3-7, Benter 1-2, Huff 1-3, Schuler 1-4, Mitchell 0-1, Anderson 0-2). Fouled Out–Goodman, McCorkle. Rebounds–IPFW 34 (Gaines 8), North Dakota 39 (Mitchell 10). Assists–IPFW 12 (Plackemeier 6), North Dakota 8 (Schuler 3). Total Fouls–IPFW 21, North Dakota 24. A–1,803.


Wayne Nelson writes for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.