The North Dakota State men’s basketball March Madness aspirations were dashed Saturday night, after Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis defeated the Bison, 76-57. The loss bounced the Herd from the Summit League tournament, thereby erasing their prospects of reaching the NCAA tournament.
Paul Miller’s 24 points led all scorers and were the lone bright spot for the Bison, who had no other players reach score in double digits.
NDSU was ultimately doomed by their rocky offensive performance in the second half. The Bison only managed to shoot 25 percent from both the field and beyond the arc in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars shot 53.8 percent in the second frame to grab the the game by the throat. IUPUI led for virtually the entire game; the high water mark of which was a 20-point lead in the closing stages.
The Jaguars jumped out to an early lead in the first half, but the game tilted in the Bison’s favor as it progressed. The Herd was able to steer the game in their direction, controlling possession and thwarting IUPUI’s offense. The Jaguars were forced to settle for contested shots as the shot clock buzzed on multiple occasions.
However, the stout defensive play of the first half was not reflected on the other end of the court. NDSU could not get their shots to fall, but they did manage to lead for a brief stint — the only time they did so throughout the night.
The Bison did have chances to firmly establish a lead, but the team allowed seven points off of turnovers, opening the door for IUPUI to remain within striking distance. Miller carried the Bison with 18 points in the first half, but no other player recorded more than four. The Jaguars took a six point advantage into the locker room.
While it appeared at times as though the Bison could claw their way back into the game, it never materialized, largely due to the fact that their scoring attack vanished. The Bison attempted to push the tempo, but with sophomore spark plug Khy Kabellis dealing with ankle issue, it was difficult to do so. Kabellis’s ailing ankle led to the Bison scoring zero points on fast breaks in the entire contest.
Head coach Dave Richman elaborated on how detrimental Kabellis’s injury was for the Herd. “Khy, in a sense, is really the one who can get us going. I credit him (for playing) 33 minutes on an ankle that 36 hours ago he could barely walk on,” Richman commented following the loss. “You could tell he couldn’t push the pace like normal and get us initiated in some things.”
Additionally, IUPUI’s stingy interior defense made scoring nearly impossible for the Bison. NDSU scored merely six points in the paint in the second half, and only 20 in the entire game. Of NDSU’s 24 second half points, ten were scored from the free throw line, and only six came from three, which had become a vital component of the Bison’s attack this year.
“We knew their tendencies and what they do and don’t like to do. We tried to shut them down and contain Miller,” IUPUI’s Aaron Brennan remarked after the game. Brennan led the Jaguars with 18 points.
“They’re a veteran group and played like it tonight. They really took it to us, especially in that second half,” Richman said. “Our expectations are to win Summit League championships, and we didn’t get that done this year. That’s a disappointment, and we’ll get right back at it.”
Should regular season title winners South Dakota advance to the NCAA tournament, the Bison, as the No. 2 team in the conference, will receive an invitation to the NIT. The NIT was once college basketball’s top postseason tournament, but it’s since been surpassed by the NCAA tournament.