MINNEAPOLIS -- After a trying few weeks on the road, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks basketball team is looking forward to being home for the holiday, even if their stay in Grand Forks will be brief.
Playing their fourth consecutive road game on Sunday, Nov. 24, the Hawks fell behind early and could not hit enough shots to catch up, falling 79-56 at Minnesota. It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Hawks, who got a team-leading 14 points from Marlon Stewart.
After a brief early lead for the visitors, the Gophers (3-3) took control of the game and didn’t look back, limiting the Hawks’ opportunities for inside shooting, which frustrated the offense all night.
“They’re very good at really controlling that lane and controlling that paint area. They don’t give you a lot of room to work,” said North Dakota coach Paul Sather. “I thought that frustrated us a lot as far as our catches inside. And I think they drew about five charges on us because we maybe were taking it too deep on that penetration. So from a defensive standpoint their plan was very, very good.”
Gophers starting guard Gabe Kalscheur led all scorers with 18 points as Minnesota won the 21st all-time meeting between these neighbors. The Gophers now lead the series 19-2.
North Dakota (1-4) took advantage of two early Gophers turnovers to grab a 5-0 lead when Stewart hit a three-pointer. But the fun was short-lived, as the Gophers stormed back with a 15-1 run and held the Hawks without a field goal for more than eight minutes.
“We turned the ball over. Gabe had those two turnovers early and we gave them some open looks, but we settled in,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “I think this team’s pretty good at being pretty poised.”
Stewart broke the drought with a scoop under the basket to make it 15-8, but was warned for flopping. On his next trip down the floor, Stewart was whistled for an offensive foul and headed to the bench. It was one of three offensive fouls called on the Hawks in the first half. They trailed 36-23 at the break despite seven points from Stewart and six from forward Kienan Walter.
“He plays a lot of minutes and he does a lot for us,” Sather said, in praise of Stewart. “He got in some foul trouble and I know that was frustrating for him, but we put a lot on Marlon and tonight he’s got eight assists, he’s got the ball in his hands a lot, making plays for others. I thought he competed pretty hard tonight.
Kalscheur led all scorers in the first half with 13. Turnovers continue to plague the Hawks early in the season. They had 19 on Sunday and have coughed the ball up 84 times in the first five games.
The Hawks came into Sunday’s game having opened the season with a home win versus Crown College, then losing road games at Gonzaga, Valparaiso and Milwaukee. After a Tuesday home game with North Central in Grand Forks, they are on the road again for a three-game weekend in southwest Florida.
“It’s good to get home. It’s one game and then we’re leaving on that Wednesday morning again, but it’s understanding these opportunities to improve,” Sather said. “I don’t know if we’ve played against better rebounding teams than what we’ve seen, especially the two against Gonzaga and Minnesota. Two very big, physical teams that have two of the better post players in the country.”
Center Filip Rebraca led North Dakota with eight rebounds.