Returning home from two road losses at No. 10 Arkansas and No. 5 Kansas, the Bison looked to get into the win column for the first time in the 2022-2023 season against the Pacific Tigers of the West Coast Conference. The Tigers recently dropped their season-opener to Stanford 88-78 on Monday but appeared to bring their high-scoring offense with them to Fargo, scoring over 90 points on Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers came out hot to start the first half as they exploded to an 8-2 led by Oklahoma State transfer Donovan Williams. The big run subsequently led Bison coach David Richman to call a timeout just over three minutes into the game and put five new players in the game. After the timeout, the Bison continued to remain within reach of the Tigers largely due to the shooting of Sam Hastreiter. Off the bench, Hastreiter shot a perfect 4-4 from downtown in the first half on his way to a team-high 24 points.
“He’s capable of those things,” Richman said of Hastreiter’s shooting performance. “You go back and you watch our Arkansas game, Kansas game and from our standpoint, from a staff standpoint we knew we had to find ways to get him out there a little bit more.”
Pacific wouldn’t let up, however, as they continued to take advantage of Bison miscues in the last 6:46 of the first half. Behind the play of Georgetown transfer guard Tyler Beard, who scored a team-high 21 points, the Tigers had popped off a 10-3 run over the next 2:47 before the last media timeout of the half to take a 39-24 lead. After the Bison scored the first four points out of the break, the Tigers finished the half on a 6-1 run capped off by a reverse layup by Beard with 15 seconds to go. That bucket sent the Tigers into halftime with a 45-29 lead over the Bison.
“I didn’t like our defensive urgency,” Richman stated. “We were tentative offensively with some things. Those words coincide a little bit with soft.”
To start the final twenty minutes of play, the Bison offense would start to come alive thanks to forward Andrew Morgan. Morgan, who scored just 2 points in the first half, started to take control down low on the block. Morgan would go 5-5 from the field in the second half which was much needed for a Bison team that was outscored 22-8 in the paint in the first half. Following a dunk by Morgan, the Bison deficit was cut to 60-53 just 6:45 into the second half causing Pacific acting head coach Josh Newman to call a timeout. Despite his strong second half, Richman stills wants to see that performance for Morgan right from the get-go.
“We need Andrew to be better out of the gates, to be better for forty (minutes).”
Following another slam by Morgan just a few moments later, the Bison found themselves trailing by just three points at 64-61, the smallest deficit since 21-18 halfway through the first half. As the crowd at the SHAC got on its feet, Donovan Williams had something else in mind. With the arena as loud as it was all day, Williams hit a step-back three and was fouled by Boden Skunberg. As Williams silenced the crowd, the Bison’s deficit would rise back to nine just two minutes after the Williams three-pointer.
The Bison, however, would continue to fight back despite the late deficit. Following two free throws by freshman guard Tajavis Miller, Hastreiter would stay red-hot. Hastreiter would hit a three from the right wing followed by another long ball from the right corner, his seventh three-pointer of the game on just seven attempts. After Hastreiter’s corner shot, the Tigers’ lead was trimmed to three once again at 80-77 with under three minutes remaining.
The Tigers from Stockton, California remained aggressive on the offensive end of the floor. Following driving layups from sophomores Cam Denson and Jordan Ivy-Curry, then a banked free throw from Ivy-Curry, the Tigers’ lead was up to six at 85-79 with only about one minute to play. Ivy-Curry would then hit clutch free throws to ice the game and give Pacific their first victory of the year while dropping the Bison to 0-3.
“An effort, an outing like that is on my shoulders, 100% on my shoulders,” Richman claimed. “You’ve got my word that we’ll continue to get better.”
As the Bison dropped their home opener for the first time in many years, they will be home again next Sunday at 1:00 against Division III Crown College. Student tickets are available at GoBison.com/Students. In the meantime, North Dakota State will travel to Terre Haute, Ind. to take on Indiana State on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Sam Hastreiter; 24 Pts, 6 Reb, 7-7 3PT; Grant Nelson; 19 Pts, 12 Reb, 4 Blk;
Andrew Morgan; 15 Pts, 8 Reb; 7-9 FG; Tajavis Miller; 14 Pts, 9 Ast, 2-5 3P