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Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published March 20 2013

UND's season comes to an end with loss to Northern Iowa

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The University of North Dakota didn’t win its last two games of the season. But there were some valuable lessons in those losses as UND now knows where it has to go in its Division I men’s basketball journey.

UND’s journey stopped Wednesday at Northern Iowa, where the Panthers – one of the top mid-major programs in the country – turned in another solid performance to beat UND 77-66 in the first round of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament before 2,450 fans at the McLeod Center.

The loss ended UND’s season at 16-17, but the Green and White played at a high level in their final two games – last week against Weber State in the Big Sky Conference semifinals and against Northern Iowa, a team playing with a chip on its shoulder after being snubbed by the NIT.

“We want to compare ourselves to teams like Northern Iowa and Weber State, the high mid-majors,” said UND’s Troy Huff, who finished with 22 points. “We now know where we have to get to in the offseason.”

Northern Iowa improved to 19-14 and will host a second-round CIT game Saturday night. UND now turns its attention toward next season, one filled with promise as the bulk of its team returns.

“The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to go; we didn’t play the way we were capable of playing until the final 15 minutes,” said UND coach Brian Jones. “But we’ve accomplished a lot this season. But against a team like UNI, you have to play at a high level because of the way they defend and the way they score the basketball.”

UND never led, yet UNI never was in cruise control. The teams played earlier this season, with the Panthers winning 72-47.

“The last time we played them, it was ugly,” Jones said. “I’m proud of our guys. They came out and played better but not as well as we could have played.”

UNI had two major advantages – perimeter shooting and inside depth.

The Panthers, led by guard Anthony James’ 24 points, shot 51 percent – 45 percent on 3-pointers. Inside, 6-foot-8 sophomore Seth Tuttle finished with 19 points – 10 more points than the combined scoring by UND’s frontline.

UNI guard Marc Sonnen also came up big on the outside, scoring 19 points as he was 5-for-10 on 3-pointers, most coming from the corner.

UNI’s 10-2 run in the final 3 minutes, 37 seconds of the first half was the spurt that made the difference. That led UNI to a 41-28 halftime lead.

UND twice cut the lead to nine points in the second half but couldn’t mount a surge.

Only one other UND player was in double figures as Jamal Webb finished with 11.

“The first 30 minutes, we were sharp in just about everything we did,” said UNI coach Ben Jacobson, a former North Dakota player and assistant coach. “Because of the way they run their ball screens and score, our communication had to be good.

“The only stretch where we weren’t sharp was around the 5-6 minute mark. We were up 16 and they were able to get it down to 10. Then, it’s a game.”

But the Panthers’ experience and depth didn’t allow UND to get any closer.

UND’s final week of the season was a hectic one, filled with a near-run at a Big Sky Conference championship and a third-straight CIT appearance.

After losing to Weber State last Friday, UND bused 17 hours back to Grand Forks. On Tuesday, North Dakota spent another 10 hours on the bus getting to Cedar Falls.

“Less than 48 hours after that 17-hour ride, we had to bus another 10,” Jones said. “We’re not using that as an excuse, but it’s hard. We had to still play the game. And our guys have done an unbelievable job all year of fighting through obstacles.”

One of those obstacles was health. Rarely, UND had a full lineup this season. But the team’s health did improve late in the season, and that’s when North Dakota surged – finishing third in the Big Sky and qualifying for a postseason tournament.

“We’ve taken some big steps,” Jones said.

NORTH DAKOTA (16-17): Anderson 1-8 6-6 8, Huff 7-12 7-10 22, Benton 0-1 0-0 0, Webb 5-10 1-1 11, Wilmer 0-1 1-2 1, Antwi 3-5 0-0 8, Allard 1-3 0-0 2, Brekke 1-4 0-1 2, Schuler 2-7 2-2 8, Archer 2-3 0-0 4, Stockdale 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 17-22 66.

N. IOWA (19-14): Mitchell 3-6 1-4 7, Tuttle 6-8 7-9 19, Koch 1-4 0-1 3, Sonnen 7-12 0-0 19, James 8-13 5-6 24, Rank 0-3 2-2 2, Bohannon 1-2 0-1 2, Singleton 0-0 0-0 0, Buss 0-3 0-0 0, Martino 0-0 0-0 0, Pehl 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 26-51 16-25 77.

Halftime: N. Iowa 41-28. 3-Point Goals: North Dakota 5-16 (Antwi 2-3, Schuler 2-5, Huff 1-3, Benton 0-1, Webb 0-1, Archer 0-1, Anderson 0-2), N. Iowa 9-20 (Sonnen 5-10, James 3-5, Koch 1-2, Tuttle 0-1, Rank 0-1, Bohannon 0-1). Fouled Out: Koch, Wilmer. Rebounds: North Dakota 34 (Anderson 6), N. Iowa 31 (Koch 7). Assists: North Dakota 9 (Webb 4), N. Iowa 13 (Mitchell 4). Total Fouls: North Dakota 24, N. Iowa 17. A: 2,450.

Nelson is the sports editor for the Grand Forks Herald