North Dakota seals the deal in downing Oral Roberts

North Dakota Fighting Hawks forward Kienan Walter (23) puts pressure on Oral Roberts' Carlos Jürgens in the second half of Saturday's home matchup at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service
North Dakota Fighting Hawks forward Kienan Walter (23) puts pressure on Oral Roberts' Carlos Jürgens in the second half of Saturday's home matchup at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. Nick Nelson / Forum News ServiceNick Nelson / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS -- North Dakota’s inability to close out games this season has been a source of frustration for the Fighting Hawks.

Another opportunity arose Saturday night, Feb. 16, at The Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. This time, Marlon Stewart, Aanen Moody and Cortez Seales sealed the deal -- leading UND to an 85-73 win over Oral Roberts before 1,764 fans.

The win was fairly significant for UND, which improved to 4-9 in the Summit League and 10-16 overall. The Hawks came into the game on the bubble of making next month’s league postseason tournament in Sioux Falls.

They left The Betty feeling better about their overall game and their place in the standings.

“We’ve had a lot of close games this season and little four-minute stretches determine whether we win or not,” said Stewart, who finished with 23 points. “We overcame that today. We weathered the storm.”

UND’s play for much of the night was solid. The Hawks shot 13-of-26 on 3-point attempts against ORU’s zone. With 5:43 left, UND led 75-59 and appeared to be poised for a cruise to the final horn.

But ORU (6-8, 10-19) managed a little surge and cut the gap to 10 twice before UND regrouped and took care of business in the final four minutes.

UND, now in seventh place in the Summit, has two more wins than last place Denver and holds the tie-breaker against eighth place Western Illinois. Eight of the nine Summit teams make the postseason field.

“All we can focus on is ourselves,” said UND coach Brian Jones. “We won the game yesterday in practice. We had a great week. We had such a competitive practice yesterday and the game today was a by-product of that.”

ORU’s zone didn’t cause UND too many problems. That’s because Moody -- the team’s best perimeter shooter -- was 7-for-11 behind the arc.

His most damaging triple came with 9:09 left, a 3-pointer that came in transition and gave the Hawks a 69-54 advantage. Stewart delivered the pinpoint pass on the break and Moody finished it.

UND had lost five of six Summit games at home before beating ORU. Three of those losses were by a combined seven points.

“Usually, we beat ourselves,” said Moody. “We don’t necessarily let other teams beat us. There have been four-minute stretches when we don’t play our way.”

But that didn’t happen against ORU, a big team that scored 42 points in the paint -- led by 6-foot-8 Kevin Obanor’s 16 points.

UND again played without starting center Conner Avants, who is out with a lower-body injury.

The Hawks are off until next Saturday, Feb. 23, when they host Denver in their final regular-season home game of the season.