GRAND FORKS, N.D. — UNO won only nine basketball games all of last season.
The Mavericks have nine already this go-around. And the latest is one they likely won’t soon forget.
UNO (9-8) rallied from a 14-point deficit to knock off North Dakota (7-10) 92-91 Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in a game in which it led for a total of one minute and 46 seconds. Mitch Hahn’s 3-pointer with 7.5 seconds to play put the Mavs on top for good in a barnburner with a thrilling finish.
The Fighting Hawks had a chance to tie the game with less than a second remaining, but Conner Avants missed the second of two free throws. UNO secured the ensuing rebound as the final buzzer sounded.
“Winning on the road is hard, and it was our first one. And we had to do everything we could to get it,” UNO coach Derrin Hansen said. “We got one that we maybe shouldn’t have because I think they’re going to beat some teams in there this year. I think that will just help our team as we go on the road.”
The Mavs, winners of six of their past seven games overall, moved into a three-way tie for second in the Summit League at 3-1. They sit behind Purdue Fort Wayne, the only unbeaten team in Summit play.
North Dakota, meanwhile, fell to 1-3 in the conference after dropping a game that it led throughout.
This was the first league meeting between the two teams since they were Division II rivals in the old North Central Conference. North Dakota joined UNO in the Summit this year after previously playing in the Big Sky.
North Dakota built its 14-point lead in the opening nine minutes. Avants, who had a game-high 24 points, scored the first seven for the Fighting Hawks, who grabbed a 16-5 advantage on a four-point play from Kienan Walter. Aanen Moody’s 3-pointer, eight minutes in, gave UND its largest lead at 26-12.
UNO chipped away to get to within four at the break. A three-point play by Zach Jackson with 2:38 left in the half cut the deficit to single digits. A 7-0 surge, capped by an Ayo Akinwole 3, got it down to 48-44.
The Mavs trailed 50-46 at intermission, then got to within one at 57-56 on a JT Gibson layup. Jackson attempted a jump shot with 16:10 to play that would’ve given UNO its first lead. It was off the mark, then Avants scored at the other end to start a push by the Fighting Hawks that extended their margin.
North Dakota’s cushion was at eight until the Mavs put together another surge. Jackson drained a step-back 3 with 5:33 to play to get UNO within three. Mitch Hahn’s drive to the basket made it 82-81 UND. Jackson then gave the Mavs their first lead of the game by scoring from the block with 3:36 left.
The teams traded baskets the rest of the way. UNO was down 90-89 when Hahn rebounded an Avants miss in the final minute. After a timeout, he canned the game-winner on a kick-out from KJ Robinson.
Cortez Seales launched a 3-pointer for North Dakota. Avants snagged his miss and was fouled by Akinwole as he went back up. The 72 percent free-throw shooter made his first foul shot. But then he missed the second, and the Fighting Hawks missed an opportunity to even their Summit mark.
Moody buried 6 of 12 3-point attempts in an 18-point performance for North Dakota.
Hahn and Matt Pile, who had consecutive dunks during UNO’s second-half rally, each finished with a double-double in the win. Pile finished with a career-high 20 points and 10 rebounds ,while Hahn scored 17 points and grabbed 11 boards. Jackson tallied 15 points for the Mavs, and Gibson chipped in with 13.
“I have to give our seniors credit. I really think Mitch and Zach have done a great job with our team,” Hansen said. “But for everyone on our basketball team, it’s all about the group. We’re growing as a team. I don’t think we’re a finished product yet. I still think we have things that we need to get better at. But to steal one on the road like that is big, and that will do nothing but help the confidence.”
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