The 2016-17 season will always be remembered as a historic one for North Dakota. The Fighting Hawks made their first NCAA Tournament in program history, but were significantly overmatched by a talented Arizona team, and fell to the Wildcats, 100-82.
North Dakota did come out of the gates strong, and even held a lead early in the first half. They hung around with Arizona through much of the half by keeping the deficit between eight and 12 points, but a late run by the Wildcats found the Fighting Hawks trailing 53-37 at the break.
In many cases, a team of North Dakota’s caliber would fail to close the gap on a team that has so many weapons like Arizona does. However, that wasn’t the case. The Fighting Hawks fought their way back, chipping away at the Arizona lead little by little. A Geno Crandall layup cut it single digits with just under 14 minutes to play. Just a minute later, North Dakota cut it to seven, and the Hawks had a glimmer of hope.
Unfortunately, Arizona extinguished that hope by holding North Dakota scoreless for nearly five minutes. They didn’t score again until it was 80-62, and by that point it was all but over. The Fighting Hawks fought until the end, but succumbed to the double-digit loss in the end.
In their tournament debut, North Dakota was led in scoring by Quinton Hooker, who poured in 25 points on the Wildcat defense. Drick Bernstine chipped in with 20 points of his own, while Geno Crandall and Corey Baldwin each had 12 in the losing effort.
Brian Jones and Co. will look to build upon this tournament birth next year in what will be their final year in the Big Sky before leaving for the Summit League. This year’s team finishes with a 22-10 record, which is the best in program history by a significant amount.