GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Troy Huff had 20 points and 14 rebounds, and sparked a 16-8 UND rally over the final 4:10 as North Dakota defeated Sacramento State, 82-71, in a Big Sky Conference men's basketball game Thursday evening at the Sioux Center.
After a pair of free throws by Jordan Salley drew the Hornets within, 66-63, with 4:22 to play, UND responded by scoring 16 of the game's final 24 points. During the game-clinching 16-8 run, Huff scored seven of North Dakota's points and turned a close game into a contest that saw the Hornets foul on five consecutive UND possessions late in the game.
After trailing, 34-26, at halftime, Sacramento State repeatedly chopped into that lead during the second half. However, every time the Hornets tried to mount a rally, UND would respond with a bucket. In fact, the Hornets cut the lead to just three points on four different occasions under the nine-minute mark, but North Dakota recorded a bucket on its next possession each time.
Usually a strong defensive team, Sacramento State wasn't as good tonight as North Dakota shot a blistering .578 (26-45) from the field. Of those 26 made field goals, 10 came via layups and five on dunks. That's 15 buckets that were scored within two feet of the basket and UND outscored the Hornets in the paint by a 32-14 margin.
The .578 field goal percentage was the second highest allowed by the Hornets this season as UND shot above 57 percent from the floor in both halves. Four of UND's five starters shot at least 50 percent from the floor, including Huff who went 5-of-10 from the field and 10-of-11 from the free throw line. The conference's leading scorer, Huff, who entered the game averaging 20.7 ppg, scored 11 of his points in the second half.
Both teams battled back and forth during the first eight minutes of the game before a Zach Mills jumper tied the score at 15-15 with 11:44 to play. However, North Dakota went on a 15-3 run spanning the next eight minutes to take a 12-point lead (30-18) with 3:55 to play in the first half. UND held a lead the final 31:25 of the contest.
The loss dropped Sacramento State to 6-10 overall and 2-5 in the conference. The Hornets, who have now played five of their first seven conference games on the road, will play yet another road game on Saturday evening at Northern Colorado.
North Dakota has now won four of its last six games and improved to 7-10 and 4-3 in the conference. The Hornets and UND have played each other five times over the years, and the home team has won every game.
Sacramento State shot .310 and scored just 26 points in the first half, but made things interesting in a second half that saw the team score 45 points and shoot .560. For the game, the Hornets finished .426 (23-54) from the field, .333 (6-18) from the 3-point line and .679 (19-28) from the free throw line. UND held a 29-25 rebounding advantage.
For Sacramento State, Mills led the way with a season-best 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the floor and 2-of-4 from the 3-point line. He also added five rebounds in 35 minutes of play. Mills is now averaging 12.3 points per game during league play, the second best mark on the team.
Joining Mills in double figures for Sacramento State was junior Dylan Garrity who had 18 points, three assists and two steals in a game-high 36 minutes. Garrity, who also buried three 3-pointers, combined with Mills to score 38 of the Hornets' 71 points. Mikh McKinney and Salley added nine points and Cody Demps chipped in six points, five rebounds and a career-high three steals. Making just his third start of the season, true freshman center Eric Stuteville had four points and five rebounds in 15 minutes. Salley, who also had four rebounds, fouled out of the game with 3:40 remaining in the contest.
For North Dakota, Huff was joined in double figures by Alonzo Traylor (17) and Josh Schuler (12). Traylor came off the bench to shoot 7-of-8 from the field.
After Saturday's game at Northern Colorado, the Hornets embark upon a season-long four-game homestand beginning on Thursday, Jan. 30, against Idaho State. That game not only marks the first of four straight home games, but begins a stretch that will see Sacramento State play eight of its final 12 league games at home.