Both NDSU’s men’s and women’s basketball teams dropped out of the Summit League tournament in the quarterfinals this past weekend. The men’s team, as the No. 2 seed, and the No. 7 seeded women’s team both lost to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis in Sioux Falls, S.D. by double digit margins.
The Jaguars managed to defeat the Bison men’s team in shocking fashion, throttling the Herd by 19 points. While Paul Miller’s 24 points paced the Bison, no other NDSU player managed to crack more than nine points. Although the men opened to a blistering 7-1 start in Summit League play, head coach Dave Richman intimated after the loss that he could see the tournament burnout approaching.
“There wasn’t that rhythm or flow the last half of the season. We went 4-4 and it carried over into tonight,” Richman said. The Bison jockeyed with South Dakota for the regular season title for the entire season. It only took a slip up on the final day of the season to fall short.
The year’s iteration of the men’s team embodied Coach Richman’s key tenets: defense, rebounding, and taking care of the ball. The Herd were one of the top defensive teams in the conference, sitting at or near the top of the rankings in many defensive categories.
Another hallmark of this year’s squad were late game heroics and second half scoring outbursts, neither of which was present in Sioux Falls. The Bison made a habit of playing close games or allowing second half runs. They had a knack for eking out victories in the late stages.
No game was more exciting than their double overtime triumph over Western Illinois on senior night. Dexter Werner and Carlin Dupree played the role of heroes in their final home game, and were honored following the win.
The men’s team christened the newly constructed Sanford Health Athletic Center in fashion, drawing an average attendance of 4,205 for Division I home games, eclipsing 5,000 fans on three occasions. Miller and fellow junior A.J. Jacobson both reached the 1,000 point mark against Denver at the Scheels Center.
Having posted a 4-12 record in conference play and using a starting lineup composed of three freshman made the women’s loss the less surprising of the two. Still, head coach Maren Walseth was proud of her team’s effort.
“Although you never like to lose, I’m very proud of the effort our Bison put in (on Saturday),” Walseth commented. She cited the squad’s youth as the source of the women’s team’s difficulties this season.
In particular, she noted that facing IUPUI’s first team all-conference forward Danielle Lawrence brought to light the hardships that her young team faced this year. Lawrence scored 23 points in 34 minutes against the Bison to lead all scorers.
“You see the (physical) difference between an 18 year old coming out of high school, and someone like Danielle Lawrence, who’s a first-teamer,” she explained. Often times, the women struggled against Summit League competition simply because they were so much younger. The roster contains six freshman, three of whom regularly started.
In spite of the loss, Coach Walseth was encouraged by her team’s progress. She stated that her three starting freshman, Sarah Jacobson, Tyrah Spencer, and Reilly Jacobson, have made substantial improvements and will only get better with the passage of time.
Although the team won only six games, the season wasn’t without highlights. The Bison jumped out to a 3-1 start in Summit League action, but it was ultimately a fluke. The women only won one more game to close the season. The most notable win of the season came against regular season titleholders South Dakota. The Bison downed the Coyotes 83-73 in front of the home crowd at the Scheels Center in January.
Junior guard Taylor Thunstedt also became the 32nd player in Bison history to reach the 1,000-point club.
The youthful Bison squads will look to improve ahead of their 2017-18 seasons.
The key for the men’s team will be to continue the development of their current sophomores, Khy Kabellis, Dylan Miller, and Spencer Eliason. Miller and Eliason will seek to fill the big man role vacated by Werner. Kabellis will look to build on a stellar season. Same goes to breakout freshman Tyson Ward, who often showed his skills, but was also inconsistent at times. Additionally, the Herd’s three redshirt freshman, Zach Rammelt, Deng Geu, and Blaze Irwin will continue to make strides towards impactful playing time in the coming season.
The women are bound to improve by virtue of the fact that they will have one full season of experience under their belt. Coach Walseth believes that the maturity will come with time. With strong foundations in place, the forthcoming season ought to result in a return to Summit League prominence for the women’s team.
The sting of two quarterfinal losses will mar the men’s and women’s seasons in the long run, but both were successful in their own right.