The Thunderbirds, who led through much of a game that featured 10 ties and nine lead changes, fell to 0-1 in the Big Sky and 1-9 overall while North Dakota improved to 1-1 in the Sky and 4-8 overall.
SUU had a 57-54 lead after Kennedy hit a pair of free throws with 4:11 to play, but UND scored eight straight points, taking a 58-57 lead on a Jamal Webb layup and extending the lead to 62-57 on another Webb basket before A.J. Hess hit a jumper with 52 seconds to play to bring SUU back within 62-59.
After another Webb basket John Marshall took the in-bounds pass and drove the length of the court for a layup with 8.2 seconds to play, making it a 64-61 game. Marshall had a chance to shave another point off the deficit with a free throw but missed the opportunity. Troy Huff, who scored a game-high 25 points, hit one of two free throws to seal the outcome.
“I thought it was a great basketball game tonight,” SUU Coach Nick Robinson said. “We got great contributions from everybody.
“I thought we did a nice job of controlling tempo,” Robinson added. “We didn’t do a very good job taking care of the ball in the first half and that hurt us. We did a good job taking advantage of our opportunities in the second half but we didn’t convert down the stretch. I needed to do a better job calling plays to give our guys a better chance to score down the stretch.
“We continue to gain confidence, continue to improve every day and that’s what you want this time of the year. We played well, we got into the offense, moved the ball well, made shots, we continue to improve.”
The Thunderbirds led most of the first half and were up by as many as nine, at 25-16 on an A.J. Hess 3-pointer midway through the period, but North Dakota chipped away at that lead to pull within 37-36 at the break.
The Thunderbirds hit 13-of-23 shots in the first half (56.5 percent) and dominated the glass, pulling down 19 rebounds to just eight for UND, but committed 13 turnovers in the period. Kennedy had 13 points at the half to lead the Thunderbirds while Huff had 18 at the break.
SUU wound up shooting 46.8 percent (22-of-47) from the floor, its best effort of the season, and out-rebounded UND 32-30. The Thunderbirds also turned the ball over just five times after the break to finish with 18.
North Dakota, which got 14 points off the bench from Webb, hit 22-of-49 shots (44.9 percent) and converted just 19-of-31 free throw attempts while SUU knocked down 13-of-17 from the stripe.