GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Sacramento State closed the final 4:45 of the game on a 10-1 run, and John Dickson's potential game-winning three-point attempt missed at the buzzer as North Dakota defeated the Hornets, 49-48, in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday evening at the Sioux Center.
With the loss, Sacramento State dropped to 12-11 overall and 7-8 in the Big Sky. The team's conference record could just as easily be 11-4 as the Hornets have now lost four games by one point against league opposition. That includes home losses to Montana (61-60) and Northern Arizona (62-61) as well as road losses tonight and at Idaho State (60-59). In fact, the four one-point losses this year are easily the most during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.), surpassing the previous mark of two, set in 2011-12 and 2009-10.
The loss is even more grueling when you consider that both the Hornets and North Dakota (11-13, 8-7) entered the game in a tie for fourth place. While Montana (14-1) and Weber State (13-2) look to have the Nos. 1 and 2 spots in the conference locked up, the remaining nine spots will be a full-on battle to the finish. Only four games separate the third-place teams (Southern Utah and North Dakota at 8-7) from the 10th place teams (Portland State and Idaho State at 4-11). Only five conference games remain on the schedule and the top seven teams qualify for the Big Sky Tournament. The Hornets will travel to Northern Colorado (6-9) on Saturday night.
Tonight was a game of big runs as North Dakota strung together a 13-0 run in the first half and a 13-3 spurt in the second half to take what looked like a comfortable 48-38 lead with 4:57 to play. The Hornets, who had their own large run at 18-3 spanning both the first and second halves, went on a 10-1 run over the game's final 4:45 to create an opportunity for victory.
Dickson scored eight of those points during the final 10-1 spurt, including two free throws at the 4:45, 3:13 and 1:19 marks of the contest. During the game's final 4:26, North Dakota shot 0-for-7 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line while turning the ball over twice. One of those missed free throws came with seven seconds left as Lenny Antwi missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation. Hornet point guard Dylan Garrity grabbed the rebound and raced up the floor as the clock ticked down.
Garrity eventually pulled up a couple feet inside the three-point line at the top of the key and dished back to Dickson, who had a wide open look at a lengthy 25-footer from straight on. However, the ball hit the right side of the rim and bounced away as the buzzer sounded. The Hornets lost a chance to sweep the season series as they posted a 67-58 victory over UND earlier this year at the Nest.
Sacramento State still had a chance to win despite being outrebounded (43-35), shooting .333 from the field (18-54) and .100 from the three-point line (1-10), missing eight layups, and being limited to just three offensive rebounds in the second half. Five of those eight missed layups came during the game's final 11 minutes, three of which were uncontested. In fact, three of the team's top players in Garrity (1-8), Mikh McKinney (1-6) and Joe Eberhard (1-6) combined to shoot 3-for-20 from the field.
The Hornets committed just nine turnovers and outscored North Dakota in points off miscues by a 13-6 margin. UND was also limited to .345 (19-55) shooting from the field, .263 (5-19) from the three-point line and just 6-of-12 from the charity stripe. Only one UND player scored in double figures, and that was Troy Huff (13 points, 10 rebounds). Huff entered the game with a Big Sky-best 19.8 points per game average against league opposition.
No players from either team shot better than 50 percent from the field, and only two shot exactly 50 percent. One of those players was Hornet center Konner Veteto (6-for-12 from the field) who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes. Dickson scored a game-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to secure his third double-double of the season. Veteto and Dickson combined to make 12 of the team's 18 shots from the field, and all 11 of the Hornets' free throws. Five of Veteto's nine rebounds came on the offensive glass as he continues to lead the league in offensive boards. Garrity posted game highs in assists (6) and minutes (38) while committing just one turnover. Eberhard added five rebounds and two steals.
For North Dakota, Huff finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, while Brandon Brekke had eight points and seven rebounds, and both Aaron Anderson and Jordan Allard grabbed seven boards.