NDSU drops to 3rd in Summit League
Oral Roberts shoots past North Dakota State 92-69
Meeting in Fargo for the first time since last season’s postgame mele, the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team welcomed the conference-leading Oral Roberts Golden Eagles to the Scheels Center in front of a season-high 3,265 in attendance. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Bison met the Eagles at the perfect time. However, the Eagles were lethal as usual, scoring 90 points for the sixth time this season.
Each team started out hot, both connecting on 60% of their shots. At the first media timeout with 13:45 to play in the first half, Oral Roberts led 17-15 with a combined six threes between each team. Following the break, the Bison were faultless from deep. In the next two minutes, the Bison hit four consecutive threes, two by Boden Skunberg and one each by Grant Nelson and Tajavis Miller.
Photo Credit | Hayden Austin – the Spectrum
Following another timeout, Oral Roberts’ scoring capabilities manifested quickly. Conducted by Preseason Player of the Year Max Abmas, the Golden Eagles rarely missed the rest of the half. As North Dakota State hit a scoring lapse hitting just four of their last 14 shots of the half, the Eagles took advantage of the Bison’s slump. Oral Roberts hit ten of their next 13 shots to take a 44-42 lead.
“I was very disappointed in the hero ball, the selfishness,” Bison Head Coach David Richman assessed. “We took quick shots. I thought we got selfish in a standpoint of how we played offensively was affecting who we were defensively.”
The Eagles closed the half out well and with a 14-5 run held a slim advantage at the break. In the waning stages of the half, Abmas scored a bucket down low for his 15th point of the half, already two-thirds of the way to his 21.8 points per game average to lead the Eagles to a 52-47 advantage at half.
In the second half, the initial four minutes were a major turning point in the game. Oral Roberts started the half on an 11-0 run, including three connections from long distance. The quick onslaught put the Bison in a predicament as they trailed 63-47.
“That’s where you give them credit,” Richman said. “Even when it was a five-point game at half and we didn’t feel like we played great, they’re in there getting organized and they know those first five minutes are going to be vitally important.”
Leading the charge for the Golden Eagles was the 7’5” Arkansas transfer Connor Vanover. In addition to his interior and shot-blocking presence, Vanover stretched the floor and hit two shots from deep in that 11-0 run.
“Hard to guard just because of those things,” Nelson said of Vanover’s skillset. “He’s a threat on the perimeter and that pick and pop is tough to guard.”
In contrast to their first-half performance, the Bison struggled shooting the ball. In the first 4:08 of play, the Bison went just 1-7 from the field. They would, however, briefly cut the deficit under 10 points with a 6-2 run. Scoring his only bucket of the half in that stretch was Grant Nelson, despite a team-high 19 first-half points. Boden Skunberg, who scored 11 first-half points, scored just four second-half points.
“I think they tightened up,” Richman said of the junior duo. “Those aren’t shots that are consistent in my opinion and those aren’t process shots.”
Oral Roberts would not succumb to the Bison’s resurgence and proceeded to prove why they’re the class of the league. After fighting through a minute-long scoring drought, the Eagles scored in a hurry and pushed the lead to 19. After Abmas drove past his defender and finished at the rim for his game-high 22nd point, the Bison trailed 77-58 with under seven minutes to play.
The Eagles would shortly eclipse their point-per-game average as well reaching 90 points for the sixth time this season with the 92-69 win. The Bison finished the game shooting just 43% with no players scoring over four second-half points.
“We’ve got two months to learn from this and keep working,” Boden Skunberg stated. “We’re excited because we’re nowhere near where we’re going to be or where we want to be.”
North Dakota State falls to Kansas City for fourth time in last five meetings 75-73
In hopes of salvaging a disappointing weekend, the Bison returned home on Saturday afternoon to face off with the Kansas City Roos. The Bison welcomed a Kansas City team that lost to last-place North Dakota on Thursday while surrendering 18 three-pointers in defeat. North Dakota State did not use a similar tactic, relying heavily on the interior game while attempting just 13 three-pointers.
The Bison were challenged with defending elite scorers RayQuawndis Mitchell and Shemarri Allen on Saturday. The duo scored the first 15 points of the game for Kansas City and Mitchell ended the first half with 17 points on high efficiency. Allen led the team in scoring with 28 points and dished out seven assists for the game as well.
“Those two dominate the ball, they dominate the shots and everybody goes and chases it,” Bison Head Coach David Richman said. “To their credit, all their other guys execute around them in their game plan.”
With Grant Nelson and Boden Skunberg in foul trouble for much of the first half, the Bison relied heavily on Andrew Morgan. Finding success down low, the Bison kept going to their 6’10” forward for buckets. Morgan got many opportunities down low, catching the ball on the block and using his physicality to his advantage. Morgan led the Bison in scoring in the first half with 13 points on an efficient 6-9 from the field.
NDSU forward Andrew Morgan attempts a field goal against Kansas City on Saturday at Scheels Center. Morgan had 13 first-half points but the Roos beat the Bison 75-73. Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics
“They were kind of pushed out on the perimeter a little bit,” Morgan said of one-on-one opportunities. “They weren’t digging like other teams were. We just wanted to pound the paint against them because we knew we could get some good looks inside.”
The Bison appeared they would finish the half strongly after Lance Waddles hit a wide-open three with under a minute to play. However, Shemarri Allen hit two long balls with under 30 seconds to play, including one at the buzzer. Although they shot 61% from the field in the first half, David Richman’s squad trailed by nearly double digits at the half. Over the last two games, North Dakota State has allowed 98 total points in the first half alone.
“We gave up 52 points in the first half against Oral Roberts. We turn around and follow it up and give up 46 points,” Richman stated frustratingly. “We chart possessions in a 66-possession game, they scored 75 points. That’s over one point per possession. It’s a recipe for exactly what happened.”
However, North Dakota State came out in the second half very nicely. Andrew Morgan was once again leading the way, scoring six of the Bison’s first nine points on his way to a game-high 29 points. North Dakota State took advantage of the physicality as Kansas City was whistled for their 6th foul of the half by the first media timeout.
Complimented by a stout defensive effort, the Bison took their first lead of the game at 51-50 with 12:20 to play in the second half on an Andrew Morgan bucket from the right block. Holding Kansas City to just two makes in their first 11 shots, the Bison were back in control.
A handful of lead changes later, the game was still neck and neck. Coming out of the final media timeout, the Bison trailed by just three points. On back-to-back possessions, Skunberg drove in the paint and floated in a pair of buckets, the latter giving the Herd a 68-67 lead with 1:53 to play for his first points of the game.
On the ensuing possession, Shemarri Allen was fouled and went to the line, but after hitting the front end to tie the game, Allen missed the second. However, an offensive rebound gave the Roos life and they capitalized. Precious Idiaru hit his third three of the game after the offensive board and gave his team a 71-68 advantage with 90 seconds remaining.
After a series of free throws, Damari-Wheeler Thomas put the Bison within one and trailed 74-73 with 21.9 seconds left. As Allen went back to the line, the Bison would get another opportunity to tie or win. Uncharacteristically, Allen missed both free throws and set up a game-winning opportunity. The Bison went to their best player Grant Nelson on the right block. Nelson spun back to his right and threw up a shot through the contact of Jevin Sullivan but was off the mark.
“It’s an action that had been successful,” Richman said confidently. “There’s two different looks out of it and give their kid credit. He got physical and made a winning play.”
Babacar Diallo knocked down one final free throw and despite shooting just 33% in the second half, Kansas City stays at .500 in the conference as they return home to play Omaha and Denver. Despite shooting nearly 10% better than their opponent, the Bison dropped their second straight game and fell to third in the conference at 5-4.
“We came back from Christmas break really bought into a process, really executed that process that led us to five straight victories,” Richman stated. “For whatever reason, we got off track, got off course. It’s on me to get us back and organized.”
The Bison are back in action next Friday when they host North Dakota at 7 p.m. as they reach the second half of conference play. Student tickets are available at GoBison.com/Students.