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DESPITE STRINGS’ CAREER-HIGH 26 POINTS, MEN’S HOOPS FALLS AT NORTH DAKOTA

DESPITE STRINGS’ CAREER-HIGH 26 POINTS, MEN’S HOOPS FALLS AT NORTH DAKOTA

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Despite a career-high 26 points and seven 3-pointers from Hornet sophomore Justin Strings, North Dakota shot 63 percent from the field and never trailed in a 97-71 win over Sacramento State on Saturday afternoon at the Sioux Center.

The 97 points were the most allowed by the Hornets this season, as North Dakota finished the game shooting .632 (36-57) from the field, .545 (12-22) from the 3-point line and .684 (13-19) from the free throw line. The Fighting Hawks held a 50-31 halftime advantage, and led by as many as 30 points in the second half before settling for the 26-point victory.

Today was easily Sacramento State's largest blowout loss of the season and snapped a string of four straight games that were decided by five points or less. North Dakota shot a blistering .692 (18-26) in the first half, and led by double figures the final 24:54 of the contest. The Fighting Hawks held substantial advantages over the Hornets in points in the paint (42-20), fast break points (10-0) and points off the bench (34-19).

Two days after scoring 38 points in a win over Portland State, North Dakota's Quinton Hooker had 34 points on 11-of-12 shooting from the field, 5-for-5 from the 3-point line and 7-of-8 from the free throw line. That included a 10-0 run all by himself to help North Dakota pull away in the first half.

The Hornets converted 12 less field goals than UND, finishing the game shooting .375 (24-64) from the field, .360 (9-25) from the 3-point line and just .538 (14-26) from the free throw line. North Dakota's 36 made field goals and 26 assists were the most allowed by Sacramento State's defense this season.

Strings did everything in his power to keep the Hornets in the game for as long as possible, and his 26 points eclipsed his previous career high of 24, set earlier this year at Idaho State. He finished the game 9-of-16 from the floor and 7-of-11 from the 3-point line. The seven 3-pointers obliterated his previous career high of three, and he has scored 20-plus points in five of the last seven games.

The loss dropped the Hornets to 11-16 overall and 4-12 in the Big Sky. Today marked the final road game of the year as the Hornets conclude the regular season next week at home against Southern Utah on Thursday and Northern Arizona on Saturday. Sacramento State currently sits 10th in the 12-team Big Sky, one game ahead of both Southern Utah (3-13) and Northern Arizona (3-13). All 12 teams qualify for this year's Big Sky Tournament in Reno which takes place March 8-12

North Dakota won its third straight while improving to 15-12 overall and 10-6 in the league. The win allowed the Fighting Hawks to move into a three-way tie for third place in the conference standings with Idaho and Eastern Washington.

Strings was one of three Hornets to score in double figures, joining center Eric Stuteville (11 points, nine rebounds) and guard Jeff Wu (11 points on 4-of-6 shooting). Nick Hornsby added eight points, seven rebounds and two assists, and Cody Demps had seven points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

All 12 Hornets on the active roster appeared in today's game, and no player received more than 25 minutes of playing time. Sixteen of Sacramento State's 35 rebounds came on the offensive glass, leading to a 17-11 advantage in second-chance points for the Hornets. In fact, all seven of Hornsby's rebounds came on the offensive glass while four of Stuteville's game-high tying nine rebounds came on the offensive end.

Joining Hooker in double figures for UND were Drick Bernstine (12 points, six rebounds, six assists), Dustin Hobaugh (11 points, five rebounds) and Corey Baldwin (11 points, nine rebounds). Eight different UND players shot 50 percent or better from the field.

Both of the Hornets' home games next week will begin at 7:05 p.m. Prior to Saturday's regular season finale against Northern Arizona, seniors Dreon Barlett and Demps will be honored for their contributions to the program.