Courtesy: Russell Hons for
Sophomore Marlon Stewart returns to Omaha to take a Creighton team that he was a part of as a true freshman during the 2015-16 season.
Game Notes: UND ready for McDermott's Bluejays
Release: 12/04/2017
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OMAHA, Neb. -- For the first time in just over 42 years, North Dakota and Creighton will meet on the hardwood as the Fighting Hawks and Blue Jays tip-off set for Tuesday in CenturyLink Center at 7 p.m. These two teams, who are separted by 500 miles on Interstate 29, have not met since Gerald Ford held the Presidency back in 1975.

Creighton leads 9-3
In Omaha: Creighton leads 6-2
Last Meeting: UND 69, CU 64 (Dec. 1, 1975; Grand Forks)
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. Creighton: First Meeting
UND Head Coach Brian Jones vs. McDermott: 0-3
Creighton Head Coach Greg McDermott vs. UND: 3-1
Creighton Head Caoch Greg McDermott vs. Jones: 2-0

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• UND won that conetst 69-64, which was played in Grand Forks, but Creighton owns a 9-3 edge in the all-time series that dates back to 1923.
• The 42-year drought between series does not mean the two programs face off without any current ties. Current Creighton head coach Greg McDermott spent five seasons as an assistant coach at UND (1989-95), helping the program to its best Division II finish during the 1989-90 season (28-7; DII Elite Eight). 
• McDermott’s nephew, Adam, spent his true freshman season with the Fighting Hawks back in 2015-16 before transferring to Northern Iowa where he is now a redshirt sophomore for the Panthers -- a program McDermott was the head coach at from 2001-06. Adam averaged 6.7 ppg that season for UND.
• UND redshirt sophomore Marlon Stewart began his collegiate career as a Bluejay, spending his true freshman season in Omaha from 2015-16. Stewart has started the first seven games this season and is averaging 12.4 ppg for his new squad. He played in 13 games for the Bluejays. 
• After getting through November with a 4-3 overall record, UND moves into December facing a grueling stretch of games with three of its first four games coming on the road against 2017 NCAA Tournament participants.

The Fighting Hawks went 11-2 at The Betty last season and own a 122-55 record in the building that opened prior to the 2004-05 season. UND is off to a 2-1 start at home this season and has now won eight-consecutive home openers.

The Fighting Hawks return to Grand Forks next Saturday for their only home game before Christmas and will play in-state rival North Dakota State at 7 p.m. The UND women will also play the Bison at home on Saturday at 2 p.m. This year’s home-and-home with NDSU will be the final non-conference matchups before the two programs will resume being conference rivals for the first time since the 2004-05 season when both were in the North Central Conference together at the Division II level.

Sophomore guard Marlon Stewart began his collegiate career at Creighton. Stewart appeared in 13 games as a true freshman back in 2015-16 before transferring to UND following that campaign. He sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules and has started all seven games for his new team in 2017-18.

The Bluejays went 20-15 during his lone season in Omaha and advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Tournament.

The Fighting Hawks are off to a slow start from 3-point territory (26.3 percent; 41-for-156), but have made up for that with a 54.7 percent clip inside the arc.

Overall, UND is shooting 44.9 percent from the field, which is the fourth best in the Big Sky Conference.

North Dakota was one of eight teams that played at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City last March for the opening round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Fighting Hawks will play two of the other seven teams that were Iin SLC next week when they travel to both South Dakota State (Dec. 12) and Gonzaga (Dec. 16). The Jackrabbits, who was the West Region’s 16th-seed, played the top-seeded Bulldogs in the first round, falling 66-46 to the tournament’s eventual runner-up. 

The Fighting Hawks will not lose all of their Big Sky hardwood rivalries after joining the Summit League following this season. UND will be one of eight combined Big Sky and Summit League teams that will take part in a yearly series between the two conferences.

The four-year men’s basketball series will begin in 2018-19 when UND will be a first-year member of the Summit League. The Fighting Hawks are playing their final season of Big Sky basketball after a run of six years as a league member.

Each school will play one home game and road contest against separate schools from the other league during each of the four seasons. The Summit League is represented by UND, North Dakota State, Omaha and South Dakota State. Big Sky schools participating are Montana State, Montana, Idaho and Eastern Washington.

UND’s Big Sky-Summit Challenge Schedule
North Dakota at Montana State
Idaho at North Dakota
North Dakota at Montana
Eastern Washington at North Dakota
Montana State at North Dakota
North Dakota at Idaho
North Dakota at Eastern Washington
Montana at North Dakota 

UND enters the week ranked second in the Big Sky, averaging 9.4 steals per game. Led by junior Geno Crandall (15) and sophomore Marlon Stewart (12), the Fighting Hawks are forcing opponents into 16.6 turnovers per game and have registered 10 or more steals in three of their last five games.

Sophomore Marlon Stewart scored just 26 points  (8.7 ppg) in his first three career games for UND, but has more than doubled that with 61 points (15.3 ppg) in his last four outings, including a career-hig 24 points against Utah Valley (Nov. 25). That was the second 20-plus point game of the season for Stewart, who also leads the team and ranks fourth in the Big Sky in assists with 27 (3.9/g). He had a career-high nine helpers in UND’s last outing against Presentation (Nov. 28).

Junior Geno Crandall has achieved a growing list of “firsts” this season and he added another one in the overtime loss to Utah Valley (Nov. 25). For the first time in his career, Crandall notched a double-double with 15 points and a career-high 10 rebounds against the Wolverines. Crandall’s double-double is also the first of the season for a Fighting Hawk. Classmate Conner Avants was a rebound shy of his first career double-double against UVU, finishing with 12 points and nine boards.

Junior Geno Crandall equaled his career-high with five steals against the Wolverines and now has 138 for his career, which ranks sixth on UND’s all-time charts. It was the fifth time during his career that he’s had five steals in a game. He needs only four steals to move past Aaron Anderson into fifth place on the all-time charts.

The Fighting Hawks will play just six games in the month of December, but each one of those contests comes against a team that won at least 18 games in 2016-17. Five of those opponents played in a postseason tournament and the Fighting Hawks’ three non-conference road games pit them against teams that also appeared in the 2017 NCAA Tournament:

@Creighton (Dec. 5; NCAA 1st Round)
@South Dakota State (Dec. 12; NCAA 1st Round)
@Gonzaga (Dec. 16; NCAA Runner-up)

Those half-dozen teams combined to go 140-66  (.680 winning percentag) a season ago with Gonzaga leading the way with a 37-2 overall mark.

The lone home game for UND before Christmas is against rival North Dakota State on Saturday night, Dec. 9. The Bison went 19-11 last season and ended their season with a first-round loss as the No. 2 seed at the Summit League Tournament. These two rivals split their home-and-home series a season ago with the road team coming out with double-digit victories in those matchups.

UND will open its final season of Big Sky play on Dec. 29 when preseason favorite Idaho pays a visit to the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center. The Vandals won 19 games a year ago and advanced to the second round of the CIT. A home game with league-foe Eastern Washington closes out the December slate on New Year’s Eve. The Eagles won 22 games last season and lost in the opening round of the College Basketball Invitational.

-- UND --

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