UND releases 2018-19 Men's BB schedule

UND releases 2018-19 Men's BB schedule Click to Enlarge

Entering his 12th season at the helm of North Dakota men's basketball, Head Coach Brian Jones has announced the 2018-19 schedule on Thursday afternoon. A slate that proves to be one of the toughest in recent memories as the Fighting Hawks prepare for their inaugural season in The Summit League.

The schedule features contests against seven programs who reached the postseason a year ago, highlighted by a matchup with the winningest program in collegiate basketball and perennial national title contender Kentucky. Three of those seven schools who saw action deep into March will make the trip to Grand Forks, all coming in conference play.

Overall, North Dakota will play 14 games in the friendly confines of the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center and 15 away from Grand Forks. Six of those 14 home tilts will come during non-conference play, including a trio of contests against Division I foes.

Despite the challenge the upcoming schedule presents, Coach Jones is both excited and focused on the team's drive to improve and energy heading into the campaign.

"This team has tremendous spirit and grit so I am looking forward to watching them continue to grow individually and collectively as a group on-and-off the floor," said Jones. "This group has a different energy about them; similar to the one we had a few years ago. They truly want to serve one another and be coached everyday which is a foundation for success."

Marking only the second meeting between the schools since 1985, UND begins the 2018-19 campaign against Northland College on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. The contest marks the second consecutive season that the Hawks and Jacks have squared off as Cortez Seales scored a game-high 20 points in last season's 79-48 win. UND has opened its season at home in three of the past four years, winning all four of those tilts.

Following the season opener, UND will head to Milwaukee for its first of two trips to Wisconsin's largest city as the Fighting Hawks will battle Milwaukee on Nov. 10 at 6 p.m. The two programs last met in Jan. 1987 when both were playing at the Division II level.

North Dakota continues its short road trip with a visit to historic Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky. against Kentucky on Nov. 14 at 8 p.m. and will be carried live on SEC Network as part of the Ohio Valley Hardwood Showcase. The Wildcats, who lead all of college basketball with 2,263 all-time victories, have a chance to enter the contest as the highest-ranked opponent to face UND in program history.

UND will wrap up the Ohio River Valley Showcase with back-to-back home meetings with Minnesota Morris (Nov. 17, 3 p.m.) and Concordia University (Nov. 20, 7 p.m.). The Hawks defeated the Cougars, 99-69, to kick off the 2015-16 season and the Nov. 20th matchup will be the first against Concordia University.

Rounding out the month of November, the green and white embark on another road trip over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. UND will look to avenge a tough overtime loss against Utah Valley on Nov. 24. The former Great West Conference foes will meet in Orem, Utah for the first time since 2012, a series that has seen six of the seven meetings decided by ten points or less. The Hawks close the trip with a visit to Bozeman, Mont. to face former Big Sky Conference mate Montana State on Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. The two squared off a trio of times last season, including UND's crazy comeback victory over the Bobcats in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Led by Marlon Stewart's career-high 29 points, the Hawks stormed back from a 19-point deficit with a 31-10 run over the final 10:09 of game action to defeat MSU.

North Dakota will get another look at a former Big Sky rival when Idaho comes to Grand Forks on the first of December at 3 p.m. The Vandals swept the Hawks a season ago after UND took back-to-back meetings in 2017 en route to a conference title.

Continuing with the theme of contests against former conference opponents, UND will take a quick trip to the Lone Star State on Dec. 5 for a showdown against UT Rio Grande Valley. Formerly known as UT Pan American when the two were members of the Great West, the Hawks and UTRGV will meet in Edinberg for the first time since Feb. 2012.

The Fighting Hawks then return home for their final two non-conference matchups at the Betty. First, UND hosts Milwaukee on Dec. 9 at 3 p.m. in a return trip following the Nov. 10 matchup. This marks the Panthers first trip to Grand Forks since 1977, a 76-57 win by the Sioux at the Hyslop. UND then closes out its home non-conference slate with Mayville State on Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.

UND makes its second appearance on national television in 2018-19 at Marquette on Dec. 18 when the Hawks become one of the first DI programs to play in the Fiserv Forum, the newest home for the school, at 8 p.m. on FS1. The Golden Eagles, a sleeper pick by many to win the BIG EAST Conference, will look to remain perfect against UND in a series that dates back to 1955. In their only previous meeting in the DI era (2008-present), UND nearly upset Marquette back in 2014.

North Dakota closes its non-conference schedule in Cedar Falls, Iowa against Northern Iowa on Dec. 22. The 87th meeting in the series, UNI looks to push its winning streak to nine straight over UND in the DI era. The Hawks nearly took down the Panthers back in 2016, falling 78-70 in Cedar Falls.

"Our schedule continues to be very challenging as it has been over the years," said Jones. "I'm a firm believer in exposing them to a difficult nonconference schedule so they are best prepared for league play. Obviously, Kentucky and Marquette jump out at you on the schedule because they will both be highly ranked, but the remainder of our nonconference schedule is as difficult as we ever had. Northern Iowa, Milwaukee, Idaho, Montana State, Utah Valley and UT Rio Grande are all very well coached and present numerous challenges."

Moving into Summit League play, UND will open its conference slate at home against Purdue Fort Wayne on Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. This will mark the Mastodon's second trip to the Betty, holding a 2-0 all-time series lead. UND won its first conference game as members of the NCC (Jan. 17, 1923 vs. South Dakota) and Great West (Jan. 15, 2009 at Utah Valley).

The team's first conference road trip will also mark the first to Tulsa, Okla. as the Hawks ring in the new year against Oral Roberts on Jan. 3. UND then heads to Denver, Colo. for a meeting with the Denver Pioneers on Jan. 5 at 2 p.m. The showdown will be the first between the schools in the Mile High City and as DI foes, with the previous meeting coming at the Hyslop in 1995.

Summit League play continues to roll as the Hawks host three consecutive home games from the Betty in the middle of January. First, UND will welcome the first of four former NCC schools to Grand Forks on Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. The Hawks will look to extend their home dominance over the Mavericks, owning a 32-8 series lead. Next, Western Illinois makes its second-ever trip to the Betty on Jan. 12 at 2 p.m. as UND looks for its first triumph over the Fighting Leathernecks since 1967. Finally, South Dakota State returns to Grand Forks for the first conference meetings between the rivals since March 2004 on Jan. 16 at 7 p.m. UND owns a 62-24 series lead against the Jackrabbits at home, but have lost the last four meetings overall against SDSU.

Continuing a run against rivals, North Dakota heads 70 miles south for a critical in-state battle with North Dakota State on Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. The 296th meeting between UND and NDSU will be the first conference meeting since a 76-73 overtime victory by the Sioux on Feb. 7, 2004 in Ralph Engelstad Arena. The Hawks have won back-to-back games in Fargo following last season's 86-77 win at the Scheels Center.

UND returns home for a one-game matchup with South Dakota on Jan. 23 at 7 p.m. The two schools have not met since 2011 when both were members of the Great West. UND defeated the Coyotes 77-76 in double overtime in Orem, Utah in the last meeting to capture the Great West Tournament title.

North Dakota closes January and begins February with back-to-back tilts away from Grand Forks. First, UND heads to Macomb, Ill. On Jan. 31 to battle WIU before the team's first-ever game at Baxter Arena in Omaha on Feb. 3. The Hawks and Mavericks last met in Omaha in the 2014 CollegeInsider.com Tournament as UND looks to halt a four-game losing streak in The Big O.

North Dakota State makes its conference return to Grand Forks on Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. Home court has recently not been kind to UND in the rivalry as the Bison have won three straight inside the Betty.

UND then heads right back on the road for a contest with South Dakota State on Feb. 9 in Brookings. The Hawks will look to find a way to claim a victory in Frost Arena, a feat not accomplished since Feb. 11, 1995 (0-15 since).

Following the quick trip down I29, North Dakota returns for its final two home games of the season. Oral Roberts makes its first visit to Grand Forks on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. before Denver makes its first visit to the Grand Cities since 1995 on Feb. 23 at 3 p.m.

UND ends February in Fort Wayne on the 28th against the Mastodons before heading to Vermillion to close the regular season against the Coyotes on Mar. 2.

"We couldn't be more excited heading into our first season of the Summit," said Jones. "We will be by far one of the youngest teams in the league and in the country competing in an older league so we expect to learn a lot about ourselves as the year unfolds. I am truly excited that our fans and families will be able to see us compete on the road. Restoring many old rivalries will only increase the intensity of these games."

Eight of the conference's nine schools will converge in Sioux Falls, S.D. for the 2019 Summit League Basketball Championships beginning on Mar. 9.

North Dakota opens up practice tomorrow afternoon to officially begin the 2018-19 season.


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