Ward scores 24 points for North Dakota State which saw its winning streak end at seven games.
GRAND FORKS — Before North Dakota State and North Dakota tipped off Saturday, Feb. 22, the Fighting Hawks honored their three seniors. One of those that was celebrated was Marlon Stewart. And for his Betty Engelstad Sioux Center ‘Swan Song,’ he put on a doozy of a performance.
Stewart scored 35 points, including the walk-off 3-pointer with .9 seconds remaining, to lift the Fighting Hawks to the 71-68 victory, ending the Bison seven game winning streak and making the Bison’s quest for the Summit League regular season title a little more rocky.
“We played far from perfect from an offensive standpoint but we took care of it,” said UND head coach Paul Sather. “And Marlon really had it going in a lot of ways tonight and that’s what we needed first and foremost.
“It was a hard fought game and we took care of it. That’s a really good North Dakota State team, what they’re really good at is being tough, being gritty and they compete.”
UND, which led by five with 35.4 seconds remaining, saw its lead evaporate thanks to Tyson Ward. Ward, who finished the game with 24 points, six rebounds and two steals, scored on a basket with 28.4 seconds left. The Bison forced a Fighting Hawks (13-15, 7-7 Summit League) five-second violation on the inbound attempt that gave the possession back to the Bison. Ward then willed a shot in while drawing contact. He made the free throw to tie the game with 18 seconds left.
“We knew what we were going to do,” said Sather about not calling a timeout after Ward tied the game at 68. “It wasn’t real complicated what we’re doing. It was about floor spacing and putting guys in the right position. It wasn’t any coaching brilliance, X’s and O’s on that part.”
Everyone else knew what they were going to do as well — so Stewart said good night.
“I don’t even think I’ve hit a game winner before, so that was crazy,” Stewart said. “I took a fadeaway 3, I don’t know if that’s really a good shot but it went in. I’m just proud of our guys on the way we played. We fought the whole 40 minutes. When you play hard like that, the game rewards you.”
“Tip of the cap to Marlon, I thought he was terrific but I need to do a better job putting our guys in positions that when someone goes on a run like that, we have to make some adjustments,” said Bison head coach David Richman.
Flip Rebraca scored 20 points on 10 of 16 shooting and had nine rebounds. His basket with 1:19 left in the game gave UND the 66-63 lead after Jared Samuelson’s 3 on the previous possession pulled the Bison to within one.
The Bison (20-8, 11-3) entered the game a half game behind South Dakota State for the conference top spot going into the Summit League tournament two weeks away. But the Bison still are in the position to obtain that No. 1 seed with two games remaining, including a showdown with the Jackrabbits on Thursday.
“Everything we want is still in front of us. If we take care of business at home and take those two, we’ll have the tiebreaker the way it sits now, so the important thing is for us to learn,” Richman said.
Vinnie Shahid scored 14 points and had five assists for the Bison who took a 38-36 lead into the locker room at halftime and built a six point lead with 11:15 left after a Rocky Kreuser basket. The six point margin was the largest lead by the Bison the entire night.
Box score can be found here.
Chris Harris can be reached at email@example.com.