Bison men’s basketball head coach Dave Richman, on a sound bite overlaying a video montage of senior Dexter Werner booming through the Scheels Center audio system, recalled the questioning he used to receive about his young forward.
“People used to ask me, ‘How is he gonna play on your team?’” Richman said. “Now the only question I get is, ‘How are you gonna replace him?’”
On senior night last Saturday, Dexter Werner once again reminded Bison faithful how he’s gonna play, and how irreplaceable he is. The senior contributed 21 points, nine rebounds, four blocks and two steals in the Herd’s thrilling 100-91 double overtime victory over Western Illinois.
Werner made the most of the start he rightfully earned for his final Bison home game. Because sophomore Dylan Miller is two inches taller than Werner, he often receives the starting nod for the tipoff, with Werner coming off the bench shortly thereafter. It was only fitting that the 6’6” Werner, considered undersized as a prospect, beat out 6’11” Leatherneck center Brandon Gilbeck for the opening tipoff.
“We talk a lot about ‘Bison Pride’ around here. Dexter Werner is Bison Pride,” Richman beamed, during the postgame ceremony for departing seniors Werner and guard Carlin Dupree.
Dupree had quite a night on the court himself, tallying 22 points to match a career high, including a team-high eight in the two overtime periods.
During the ceremony, coach Richman addressed the crowd, detailing Carlin Dupree’s selflessness and his unwavering support of his guard.
“I think he’d say that this culture has made him better, and I would say he has made our culture better,” the coach stated.
Richman told the Bison faithful about the only time Carlin Dupree made a selfish decision, and it wasn’t when he left the team junior year over a dispute about his playing time.
“The only time Carlin made a selfish decision was in high school,” Richman said. Once in high school, a fight broke out, and Dupree hid in a small room until the fight ended.
Once in high school, a fight broke out, and Dupree hid in a small room until the fight ended. Afterward, someone asked him why he hadn’t gotten involved in the brawl, to which he replied, “Can’t be getting mixed up in that.”
“They (Dupree and Werner) really epitomize what we’re about: selfless individuals who care about winning,” Richman said.
The senior duo provided the quintessential moment of senior night at a critical juncture in the contest. Trailing by five with 2:19 remaining in regulation, Werner turned away WIU’s Mike Miklusak in the paint to gain possession for the Bison. Dupree streaked to the basket in front of a raucous student section for an easy layup to cut the Leatherneck lead to three points.
Trailing for 25:40, the Bison somehow managed to salvage the game in the latter stages of the second half. Behind by seven points with 2:57 to play, Dupree and Werner scored nine points to tie the game.
The two are no strangers to monumental occasions on the hardwood.
Dupree permanently etched his name in Bison lore as a youthful freshman. Checking in late in overtime against No. 5 Oklahoma in the round of 64 in March Madness, Carlin Dupree sank a pair of baskets to shock the Sooners and deliver the Bison their first victory in the NCAA tournament.
Werner too has shared in the limelight in March Madness as well. Scoring 22 points off the bench, Werner paced the Herd in a valiant effort versus No. 2 Gonzaga in 2015.
Against the Leathernecks on Saturday, Dupree and Werner turned in one final legacy-defining win that will live in Bison Nation’s collective memory for years to come.
“Definitely one of the top five craziest game I’ve ever played,” junior Paul Miller described after the game. “I’ve been with both those guys for three years, love them both to death. They’re both great players, but even better guys to be around every day.”
“You saw the reception that they got out there tonight,” Miller said. “The fans love them, everybody loves them, and it was just big time to get them a win.”
Paul Miller led the Bison with 29 points, including 15 in the second half and seven in overtime.
“It’s memorable. Obviously, senior night is something you’re already gonna remember, and then to grind out a double overtime win is obviously one that I won’t forget,” Werner said after the game.
Being a resident of Bismarck, N.D., representing NDSU has always had added significance for the forward.
“It’s just been an honor playing here. I am extremely appreciative of the coaching staff that gave me a chance to go D-I. I wanted to stay close to home, and they gave me that choice,” Werner remarked afterward.
“I got to play and contribute on the highest level in my home state,” Werner said. “I got to have all my friends and family close while I did it. That’s really all I wanted, so I couldn’t be happier with how my career has gone here.”
Bison fans could not agree more.
Both Dupree and Werner profusely thanked a laundry list of people for their career success, ranging from the fans, the coaches, teammates, family and friends. Dexter Werner, never the fastest or tallest, Carlin Dupree, even after leaving the team in the middle of his junior season, will be long remembered for their heroic performances on Saturday and throughout their Bison careers.
They will leave a void on the men’s basketball team that will be extremely difficult to fill. Both will leave with two Summit League titles and two NCAA tournament appearances under their belt. They may not be done, as they hope to add another in the coming weeks.
For that, Bison Nation couldn’t be any more thankful.