Bison fall to No. 10 Arkansas 76-58 in season-opener
Following a 98-64 home exhibition win over Minnesota-Crookston last Wednesday, the Bison headed south to take on the 10th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks for their season opener on Monday.
For much of the first half, the Bison were able to keep an even pace with the Razorbacks and even trailed by only two points with three minutes to go in the half. However, after an 8-2 run by Arkansas, the Bison found themselves trailing 34-26 after 20 minutes of play. In the first half, North Dakota State shot just 31% from the field and 17% from beyond the arc.
Led by veterans Boden Skunberg and Grant Nelson, whom each scored a team-high 17 points, the Bison were able to stick around for much of the second half. The Razorbacks would, however, come out strong to start the second half, erupting on a 15-5 run through the first four and a half minutes of play. After finding themselves trailing 49-31 after the run, each squad scored 27 points the rest of the way.
Despite scoring just 3 points in the first half, 1st Team Preseason All-Summit League forward Grant Nelson erupted for 14 second-half points including three sky-scraping dunks. The Bison’s highest returning scorer also snatched six rebounds despite playing just 21 minutes. In his Bison debut, junior transfer Luke Yoder led the Bison with four assists in 30 minutes of playing time. Also stepping on the court in a Bison jersey for the first time was sophomore transfer Jacari White. White, who spent one season at State College of Florida, tallied 6 points in 15 minutes off the bench.
Despite holding the Razorbacks to 40% shooting from the field in the first half, North Dakota State couldn’t contain Arkansas’s Ricky Council IV and Trevon Brazil who led a Razorback team that shot 59% from the floor in the second half. Arkansas outplayed the Bison in every statistical category excluding three-pointers made although the Bison shot just 24% from three.
In last week’s exhibition game against Minnesota-Crookston, a big reason as to why the Bison scored 60 second-half points was due to freshmen guards Tajavis Miller and Lance Waddles who made a combined 10 three-pointers. On Monday, the duo combined to shoot just 2-15 from the floor and 2-10 from long distance. The Bison will need to shoot much more efficiently in order to keep pace with teams like Arkansas and Kansas in the future.
No. 5 Kansas defeat Bison 82-59 as shooting woes persist
Traveling to Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, Kansas on Thursday to take on the defending champion Kansas Jayhawks, the Bison looked to improve on their poor shooting performance in Fayetteville on Monday.
The tenacious defense of the Jayhawks was overwhelming for the Bison to handle in the first half of action. Jayhawks’ defenders were up in the grills of Bison ballhandlers all night long, making it difficult to find quality shots. Shooting just 25% from the field in the first half, the Bison attempted just eight shots from inside the three-point line while attempting zero shots from the charity stripe. Scoring just 19 points in the first half marks the first time the Bison have scored less than 20 points in a half since a 71-60 loss to Indiana State in the 2019-20 season.
Aside from layups by Boden Skunberg and Grant Nelson, the Bison’s only points of the first half came courtesy of the three ball. As the Bison missed 15 three-point shots in the first twenty minutes of action and had several turnovers due to heavy ball pressure, the long rebounds and backcourt steals granted the Jayhawks an opportunity to transition and run the floor. For the game, the Bison were outscored in transition points 14-2 and 22-7 in points off turnovers.
Following last season’s national championship game, the Jayhawks would lose four of their top five scorers coming into this season. KSU’s top returning scorer, Jalen Harris, would be the one in full control over the Bison in the first half. By scoring 17 first-half points, Harris was just one long ball away from outscoring North Dakota State in the first half.
Despite the treacherous first half, the Bison went toe to toe and even outscored Kansas in the second half 40-34. North Dakota State’s defense in particular came out with some extra fire following the break, holding the Jayhawks to 42% shooting from the field and limiting Jalen Harris to just four second-half points. As for the Bison offense, shooting 47% from the field and getting to the free throw line allowed the Bison to score 40 points in a half for the first time this season.
Statistically, the Bison were again led by Grant Nelson, who nearly recorded a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds, and Boden Skunberg was also in double figures with 10 points. Having 10 players put the ball through the net, the Bison have shown that they aren’t going to rely on one guy to lead the way offensively.
However, shooting just 35% in their opening two games is certainly an area for improvement for a Bison team picked to finish fourth in the Summit League. As Coach Richman and other players have stated, the Bison simply don’t care how tough other teams will be and if the first two games are any indicators, the Bison will be focusing on themselves moving forward, not their opponents.
“I care about one university,” Richman declared. “I care about one team, one program, and I care about 13 guys and our staff and support staff and just getting us better on the daily basis. If we do those things we won’t have to worry about anything else.”
The Bison’s official home-opener will be Sunday, November 13th at 1 p.m. as the Bison will take on the Pacific Tigers of the West Coast Conference. Student tickets are available at GoBison.com/Students.