One thing that makes the start of the college basketball season so exciting are all of the early-season tournaments. Fans get to experience match-ups that they don’t usually get to experience, and the level of basketball is superior.
We’re not just talking about the major events with the likes of the Iowa State Cyclones and the Gonzaga Bulldogs (AdvoCare Invitational), or the Champions Classic.
The smaller events provide fans with spectacular match-ups and exciting basketball.
One of those smaller events this season was the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic, taking place inside the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio.
This year’s field included the host Wright State Raiders, the North Florida Ospreys, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks, and the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners.
The Fighting Hawks and the Roadrunners squared off on Sunday afternoon to close out the event for both teams.
North Dakota entered the game having lost their first two games of the event. They fell to the Ospreys on a buzzer-beater from Dallas Moore in their opener, 76-75.
The next night, they took on the host Raiders. Despite holding Mark Alstork, the nation’s leading scorer, to just 10 points on 0-of-9 shooting from the floor, a cold spell on offense for the Fighting Hawks did them in. Wright State capitalized, and came away with the 83-79 win.
For the Roadrunners, they opened the event with a loss against the Raiders, then followed that up with a 23-point win over North Florida on Saturday.
Sunday’s game gave both teams a shot at a momentum boost as they get ready to head into December.
It was a back-and-forth affair early on between the Roadrunners and the Fighting Hawks, with North Dakota talking a slim three-point lead with just over 11 minutes left to play in the opening half. The Roadrunners started to find their groove, and used a 12-0 run to open up an 18-9 lead with just over 7 minutes to play in the half.
Cal State Bakersfield would take a 31-20 lead into the break, and it looked as though they were in full control.
Against the Raiders on Saturday, it was a cold spell that would do the Fighting Hawks in. On Sunday, they flipped the script.
The Roadrunners would stretch their lead to 17 points early in the second half, and North Dakota struggled to mount any sort of comeback as the game ticked away.
With 5:47 to play in the game, Brent Wrapp hit a jumper to give the Roadrunners a 14-point lead, at 55-41. They looked to have the game under wraps, but North Dakota has other plans.
Wrapp’s jumper were the last points that Cal State Bakersfield would score on the afternoon.
Corey Baldwin answered Wrapp’s jumper with a three pointer just 13 seconds later, kicking off a run that would bring the Fighting Hawks all the way back.
With under five minutes to play in the game, Conner Avants hit a pair of free throws to get North Dakota to within single digits, and they would continue to chip away.
As the clock ticked below the four minute mark, it was time for sophomore guard Geno Crandall to take over. He scored seven straight points for North Dakota, with his layup at the 1:39 mark tying the game up at 55-all.
Both teams missed opportunities in the final minute to give themselves the advantage. Jaylin Airington missed a jumper for the Roadrunners with 31 seconds on the clock, and Quinton Hooker came down with the defensive rebound. The Fighting Hawks called timeout with 23 seconds left in the game, and the shot clock off.
With three seconds left, Crandall missed a jumper, but Cortez Seales got the offensive rebounds. He proceeded to miss the ensuing jumper, but Conner Avants was there to save the day.
He got the rebound, and got his tip-in to fall ahead of the buzzer, capping off North Dakota’s 16-0 run that spanned close to six minutes.
The Fighting Hawks capped off the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic with a thrilling 57-55 win over the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners in Dayton, OH.
Quinton Hooker and Drick Bernstine had quiet games for the Fighting Hawks. Bernstine finished the game with 2 points and 1 rebound before amassing five fouls. Hooker was limited to 9 points on the day, but did finish the game going 3-of-4 from three point range.
The hero, Conner Avants, was just 1-of-8 from the field on the day, finishing with five points. However, that one field goal was the difference for the Fighting Hawks.
For the Roadrunners, their starters did the vast majority of the damage. They got two points from their bench players combined. Dedrick Basile led the way, scoring a game-high 17 points on 6-of-18 shooting from the field.
Matt Smith chipped in with 16 points, while Shon Briggs pulled down 11 rebounds in the loss.
After three close games, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks (4-2, 0-0) ended the event with a huge boost of momentum, as their 16-0 run showcased their abilities on both ends of the floor. The Fighting Hawks will remain on the road for their next two games, with the first coming on December 7th against their instate rivals, the North Dakota State Bison.
For the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners (4-3, 0-0), they had the game under control, but a cold spell on offense left the door wide open for North Dakota, who seized the opportunity. The Roadrunners return home for their next game, as they take on the Pacific University Pioneers on November 30th.
– T. Bennett