The North Dakota State men’s basketball team lost two games against top opponents over break, but also came away with four key wins as the conference schedule begins.
Trip to No. 18 Arizona
The Bison’s trip to Tucson ended in favor of the No. 18 Wildcats. Arizona pulled away late in the first half with a 16-0 run to down the Bison 83-53.
Freshman Deandre Ayton led the Wildcats on the night. The 7-1 forward, who is likely to go very early in the next NBA draft, knocked in 25 points on 11-17 shooting.
Ayton is averaging 20.4 points per game this season for the Wildcats.
The Bison kept it close early, even taking the lead off a Cameron Hunter 3-pointer. It would be the last time NDSU led as the Wildcats went on their run.
Paul Miller led the Bison with 12 points and four assists. Hunter added 11 to join Miller in double digits.
The Bison shot only 37 percent on the night, compared to 50 percent for Arizona.
The Wildcats extended their home non-conference winning streak to 46 at the McKale Center.
NDSU traveled to the Sun Bowl Invitational in El Paso, Texas for a pair of games. The Bison opened with a 100-63 blowout of UNC Wilmington.
Shots fell consistently throughout the game for the Bison, who finished shooting 61 percent from the field.
Sophomore Tyson Ward led the Bison with 17 points and was one of six Bison with multiple 3-pointers.
Miller was right behind Ward with 16 points. Deng Geu went 6-7 from the floor to add another 16. AJ Jacobson posted 11 points.
The Bison dominated in the paint, outscoring the Seahawks 36-12 down low.
NDSU took the Sun Bowl Invitational title the next day against UTEP. The Miners held a 49-44 lead with just under eight minutes left to play, but the Bison went on a 14-0 run to take the win, 63-51.
Jared Samuelson knocked down a three to give the Bison a 51-49 advatage with 6:18 left to play. NDSU continued to add to the lead with four points from Miller and a three from Jacobson with two minutes left to ice the game.
Miller had 16 of his 19 points in the second half to lead the Bison. Ward finished with a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
NDSU out-rebounded the Miners 50-30 in the game, leading the Bison to a 13-4 second chance points advantage.
Neither team shot extraordinarily well. The Bison shot 36 percent for the game while the Miners shot 33.3 percent.
The difference came in the second half when NDSU hit on 46.15 percent of their shots.
One last non-conference tune-up
NDSU finished the non-conference schedule with a 99-50 win over Jamestown.
The NAIA side were outmatched by the Bison as NDSU jumped out to a 56-28 lead at halftime. The Jimmies turned the ball over eight times in the first half and allowed the Bison to shoot 65.6 percent.
Miller shot 6-7 from the field and 4-4 from behind the arc to register 18 points in the first half. He finished with 23 in the game.
Ward came up with his second straight double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
NDSU had 10 players score at least 6 points.
Summit League play
The Bison opened Summit League against preseason favorites South Dakota State at the Scheels Center.
NBA prospect Mike Daum led the Jackrabbits with 37 points and 15 boards to power SDSU to the 87-80 victory.
The leading scorer in the nation last year shot 10-22 from the floor and was a perfect 16-16 from the charity stripe. NDSU committed 20 fouls in the game.
Miller kept NDSU in the game throughout. The senior was 7-11 from three-point range in scoring a career-high 36.
The Jacks used a 9-0 run in the second half to pull away form the Bison.
It was only the second time in the last 13 attempts the Jacks won in Fargo.
The Bison bounced back from the loss and a rocky start of the next game to beat South Dakota 84-79.
The Coyotes jumped out to a 15-3 lead in the first four minutes. Over the next 14 minutes, NDSU outscored USD 41-18.
NDSU took their lead to 49-35 right out of the break thanks to Hunter’s three-point play. Hunter scored 35 points on the night, a career high.
The Coyotes chipped away at the lead in the final 10 minutes and took a 74-73 lead with just over four minutes left to play.
NDSU hit free throws down the stretch to take the win and improve to 1-1 in the Summit League and 9-7 overall.
The Bison next host Denver 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11 at the Scheels Center.