BRITTANY HOFMANN | THE SPECTRUM
Having defeated the Fighting Hawks in Grand Forks in December, the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team looked to sweep the two-game season series against North Dakota. This time though, it was UND who were victorious in the I-29 battle, downing the Bison 86-77. The hosts have struggled of late in the series, dropping five consecutive games.
The two sides traded blows early in the first half, but it was the Fighting Hawks who held the upper hand. Bison guard Chris Quayle briefly gave NDSU a 19-17 advantage. Quayle’s basket ultimately proved to be the only point at which the Herd held the lead, though. Immediately, Marlon Stewart answered with a three pointer, and the 31 seconds in between was all the time the Bison ever led.
The Fighting Hawks led by as many as 12 points in the latter stages of the first frame. UND took a nine-point lead into the locker room thanks in large measure to their three-point shooting. The Fighting Hawks connected on 10 of 16 shots from beyond the arc in the first half, led by senior Dale Jones’s four threes.
“The game almost felt like it was a direct flip of what happened in our building,” North Dakota head coach Brian Jones remarked. “Our team is definitely capable of that. They just haven’t done it this year. Our guys did a tremendous job of sharing it and making the extra one.”
NDSU began the second half with sloppy play. Four turnovers in a matter of three minutes led to 10 points for the Fighting Hawks. Two treys after Tyson Ward’s consecutive giveaways handed UND a 16-point advantage, their largest of the night.
“We crushed them on the glass, we almost doubled them up from the free throw line, and the field goal percentages are right there,” Bison head coach Dave Richman said. “But the big discrepancy in the four categories that matter to me, to us, are the turnovers. We got eight assists and 17 turnovers.”
In total, the Herd’s turnovers accounted for 32 points for UND.
In spite of their horrendous turnover numbers, the Bison were able to slice into the Fighting Hawks’ lead. A 9-0 run midway through the second half breathed life into the Scheels Center, but the Bison could never snatch the lead.
“Every time it felt like we were getting it close, they were hitting a tough shot,” senior guard Paul Miller commented afterwards. “I think the big thing was it took too long for us to really start making our moves. We’ve got to start bringing that attacking energy from the beginning.”
When the baskets began to fall again for the Fighting Hawks, the Bison were unable to hit back. Drawing the score to 66-62 forced UND to call a timeout, but less than four minutes later, the Fighting Hawks were ahead by 13 points.
“We got them at home and they came back and wanted it more than we did tonight. It was one of those things that they made really tough shots,” A.J. Jacobson stated. “It started off with me personally defensively to start the game. I let Jones hit two threes to start the game and they just got comfortable.”
Contributing to the Bison’s woes was their poor showing from behind the three-point line. NDSU knocked down merely six of 25 attempts, compared to their foe’s 12 of 23 mark. Miller was the only Bison to drain more than one three, and his 27 points led all scorers.
In the end, the night was another loss in an up-and-down season for the Bison, which includes four defeats in Fargo. NDSU is now 3-3 in the last six games, flipping between win and loss each game.
NDSU has no choice but to turn the page quickly for their return to Summit League action. The Herd will travel to Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne on Saturday before returning home to host Omaha next Thursday.
“The beauty of this thing is this game was non-conference,” Richman noted. “At the very end of the day, this is a game, and it’s one game. But, we need to figure out ways to learn from this game.”
With four of the next seven games against opponents currently ahead of them in the Summit League standings, answers must come quickly for NDSU.