The Herd is back in familiar territory at the NCAA tournament.
The Bison men are going dancing once again. For the second year in a row, and fifth time in history, the Herd get to play March Madness basketball.
The Bison defeated pesky Oral Roberts on Monday in the semi-finals. The Herd kept the Golden Eagles at arms reach for most the game, but a 16-6 run by the birds tied the game with 10 minutes to go.
Tyson Ward and Vinnie Shahid per usual got there’s, scoring 21 and 17 respectively, but the unsung hero for the Herd down the stretch was junior guard Cameron Hunter.
Hunter shot eight free throws in the final 39 seconds of the game, sinking them all as well as Oral Roberts. Hunter’s clutch shooting never let the Eagle’s break through, as the Herd prevailed with a hard-fought 75-69 win.
The real fun came on Tuesday night.
17 days after a Fighting Hawks buzzer-beater snapped an NDSU winning streak, and put the Bison’s Summit League lead in jeopardy, The Herd and UND squared off for a shot to play in the NCAA tournament.
The ball was tipped, and eight minutes late the game was all but over. The Bison were hotter than the metal end of a seatbelt on a summer’s day. Couple that with UND’s 0-7 start from the field, and a 21-2 run to start the game ensues.
After that, the game was one big victory-lap for the Bison.
Vinnie Shahid, who took home the tournament MVP, refused to let this be his final game in the green-gold, leading the way with 25 points. Fellow senior and all-tournament team member Tyson Ward would not be outdone, notching a tripled double with 23 points and 13 boards.
The laundry list of stats for the Bison is seemingly endless. The Herd went 8-11 from three in the first half (UND made just three from deep all game), missed just one free throw all game and set the Summit League record for largest margin of victory at 36 after the 89-53 win.
Nine different Bison scored, including an electric old-fashioned three-point play from Odell Wilson IV. On an assist from Maleek Harden-Hayers, the redshirt freshman made the Bison bench go ballistic with his and-one.
After two ‘pull your hair out’ close games that came down to the final minutes, the Bison let loose a bombardment of shooting and defense that left the Fighting Hawks helpless. It was not UND’s fault, they just happened to be the victim of a team that could not be beat on that day.
Right now the Bison are speculatively being seen as getting anywhere from a 12-15 seed. The Herd will be bringing a veteran team that squared off against a Zion Williamson-led, Duke-recruit, super-team in the round of 64 last season into the tournament. That Bison team, that was completely outsized and was facing three future lottery picks, was down by just four points at halftime against. The point is, the Herd has been there before, and regardless of what draw they get, they won’t be unprepared.