GRAND FORKS — Mitchell Sueker shoots free throws at an 80% clip. That’s one reason he was on the floor late during Saturday night’s game against North Dakota State.
After he came through at the line, he may be on the floor for another reason — his field goal shooting.
Sueker scored a season-high 22 points — seven at the line during crunch time — as UND rebounded for an 82-78 overtime win over North Dakota State at The Betty, a win that improved the Fighting Hawks to 4-11 overall and 3-3 in the Summit League. The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Bison, who dropped to 7-7 overall and 5-1 in league play.
The win was a meaningful one for the Hawks, who were lethargic in their 62-45 loss against the Bison a night earlier.
Sueker also went 7-for-10 from the field in turning in his best performance of the season.
“That’s what everyone plays for, the big moments,” said Sueker, who is in his first season at UND after transferring from South Dakota Mines. “As an athlete, you want to be in those moments. I look forward to it. I don’t really look at it as being nervous or anything. You just try and execute.”
Not much separated the teams. There was no lead larger than eight points and there were 14 lead changes. The Hawks led for 20 minutes, the Bison 18.
Sueker received a lot of help, too, as Filip Rebraca added 21 points while Ethan Igbanugo finished with 18, followed by Tyree Ihenacho with 11 and Bentiu Panoam with 10.
“For 45 minutes, on both ends of the floor, it was one of our most complete games,” said UND coach Paul Sather. “It was the best game where we’ve been connected on the court.”
The emergence of Sueker, a 6-foot-9 forward, gives the Hawks another inside threat.
“We believe in Mitch; we always have,” Sather said. “I think he’s learned how hard it is to play and how physical it is.”
NDSU had two good looks to end it in regulation, but Krueser and Grant Nelson — the former Devils Lake standout who finished with 10 points — couldn’t get shots to drop in the final seconds.
UND took the lead for good in overtime when Rebraca hit two free throws for a 74-72 advantage with 2:16 to play
The Hawks, after not shooting any free throws Friday night, got to the line 22 times on Saturday, making 17. Most of their trips to the stripe came in the final 12 minutes. Before that, UND had shot only two free throws.
UND needed the solid inside play from Sueker and Rebraca since NDSU center Rocky Kreuser turned in a monster game — 34 points and 10 rebounds.
NDSU came into the weekend series on a roll — winning five straight in Summit play.
UND now turns its attention toward South Dakota State next weekend in Brookings. The Jackrabbits are one of the league powers.
UND has now split Summit games all three weekends. After a difficult nonconference schedule, a 3-3 mark in league play isn’t a bad place to be.
“But I told our guys not to get caught up and worry about our record,” Sather said. “Let’s keep thinking about getting better. We grew a lot tonight. We got better.”