El Paso, Texas – North Dakota State used a long distance barrage to build a comfortable lead at the break and never let up in a 100-63 decision over UNCW in the opening game of the 56th WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Tournament on Thursday at the Don Haskins Center.
The Bison of The Summit League evened their record at 6-6 after winning for the third time in four outings. NDSU shot 61.3 percent in the first half, connecting on 9-of-16 behind the arc, and added 60.9 percent in the second period. Seven different NDSU players canned a three-pointer in the convincing win.
The Seahawks, plagued by cold shooting early and later by foul trouble to key contributors, had their losing streak extended to seven games and tumbled to 2-8.
UNCW faces Howard in the consolation game on Friday, Dec. 22, at 7 p.m. ET. NDSU takes on host UTEP in the championship game at 9 p.m. Howard dropped a 69-56 score to the Miners in Thursday’s nightcap.
Sophomore guard Tyson Ward anchored four players in double figures with 17 points for the Bison. Senior guard Paul Miller and sophomore forward Deng Geu chipped in 16 points apiece and senior swing man A.J. Jacobson contributed 11.
Sophomore guard Jaylen Fornes paced the Seahawks in scoring for the second time with 15 points and added five rebounds. Junior forward Devontae Cacok collected 13 points and eight boards and senior playmaker Jordon Talley wound up with 12 points.
Shooting accurately from deep, NDSU drained 14-of-25 three-pointers, just two shy of the most ever by a Seahawk opponent. The Bison became the third team to eclipse the century mark vs. UNCW and the fifth team to shoot at least 50 percent.
“It was obviously an embarrassing effort by everybody, me included,” UNCW Head Coach C.B. McGrath said in his postgame press conference. “We just couldn’t find any combination. At some point, we have to play defense. It’s going to be long year if we decide to just give in when a team gets rolling a little bit. We have to somehow step up.
“They didn’t do anything that we haven’t seen. They didn’t do anything tricky. We’re going to see the same things in the upcoming games. There’s going to be a lot of capable shooters on teams. They ran their stuff without any resistance. Every time we tried to run our stuff, there was some body there from their team.”
The Bison cruised to a 52-28 halftime cushion and Jacobson sank a triple right away in the final period to extend the margin to 55-28 before the Seahawks got back-to-back buckets from Talley and Cacok to narrow the deficit to 55-3.
But NDSU reeled off 10 straight points to get the lead back to 65-33 and the Seahawks couldn’t close the gap. The Bison registered their largest lead of the night with 8:15 on the clock when Jacobson converted a pair of free throws on a technical foul and Paul Miller added two more free throws for an 82-44 bulge.
UNCW hung with NDSU early before the Bison caught the hot hand to bolt out to a 52-28 halftime cushion.
Talley followed up his own miss with a jumper at the 14:54 mark to put the Seahawks in front, 8-7, but the Bison responded with a 22-6 run, including six triples, to break away to an early margin.
Freshman reserve forward Rocky Kreuser got the run kick started with a three-ball from the top of the key and Paul Miller, NDSU’s leading scorer, buried a three-pointer from the left corner for his first points of the game to give the Bison a 29-14 advantage with just over eight minutes remaining in the stanza.
The lead swelled to 25 points with one-minute left to play on Dylan Miller’s dunk before UNCW freshman Jeff Gary sank a long trifecta and Geu scored inside to close out the scoring in the first half.
The Bison wound up shooting 61.3 percent in the opening period and drained 9-of-16 behind the arc to build a big lead. UNCW was chilly from the outside early, making just 31.4 percent in the first half on 11-of-35 shooting.
GAME NOTES: The two teams combined for 35-of-45 at the free throw line…NDSU had seven dunks in the contest, including five in the second half…The Seahawks had a season-low eight assists…UNCW won the battle on the offensive glass, 11-2…UNCW had 14 turnovers and NDSU finished with 12 miscues…The Seahawks are still looking for their first win in road/neutral games in seven tries…Devontae Cacok has now reached double figures in scoring in 14 consecutive outings…UNCW concludes its pre-Christmas slate on Friday in the consolation game of the tournament…Devontae Cacok and Jordon Talley, UNCW’s top two scorers, both fouled out of the game.