After a furious second half comeback, the North Dakota State Bison men’s basketball team came up a few baskets shy of victory, losing to South Dakota by a score of 76-72. NDSU trailed by 20 points at halftime and rallied to come within two, but the Coyotes ultimately prevailed.
NDSU opened the contest with a 5-3 advantage off of Paul Miller’s slashing layup and free throw. The lead proved to be the only point at which the Bison would be ahead in the game. Less than five minutes later, the Bison trailed by 11 when Matt Mooney sunk three free throws at the 12:57 mark of the first half.
While two layups from Deng Geu and a basket from Cameron Hunter brought the deficit back down to five points, a 19-6 Coyotes extended run saw their lead balloon to 18 points. USD scored the last four points of the half and took a 44-24 lead to the locker room.
“You can’t spot anybody a 20-point lead, and that’s what we did,” head coach Dave Richman stated afterward.
The first half was marked by ineffective shooting for the Bison. The Bison missed their first 11 attempts from beyond the arc. It was not until Tyson Ward hit a corner three with 1:46 left in the half that NDSU made their first triple of the afternoon. Overall, the Herd shot 11-27 from the field in the first half.
NDSU emerged an inspired team to begin the second half. Miller and A.J. Jacobson hit two 3-pointers to spark an 8-2 run, which closed the gap to 14 points. The two sides traded baskets thereafter, but it was the Bison holding the edge, cutting the deficit to 10 on Geu’s two makes from the line.
Still needing to improve their presence under the basket, Dylan Miller checked in for Rocky Kreuser at the midpoint of the half. Miller had an immediate impact, flying down the baseline for a pair of dunks on consecutive plays, assisted by Ward on both. Both jams rallied the 3,722 fans in attendance to find their voice, and the SHAC was the loudest it had been all season.
The Bison sliced the lead below double-digits on back-to-back treys from Hunter and Miller with over six minutes remaining. NDSU proceeded to score 15 points in a stretch of less than five minutes to trail by only three with 1:44 left to play. Miller capped the stretch the way he began it — with an electrifying triple.
NDSU had a golden opportunity to take the lead they had long fought for when Mooney missed a three on the ensuing possession. Sophomore Tyler Peterson grabbed the offensive board and then hit a pair from the stripe to bring the Coyotes’ lead back up to five.
Even then, the Bison were not done. On the next trip down the court, USD sprung a double team trap on Miller, but he was able to kick it to Jacobson, who nailed a wide-open three.
Peterson struck again though for the Coyotes, answering Jacobson’s three with one of his own and driving the dagger into NDSU with 20 seconds remaining.
“USD is a very good team, and they become an even better team when you make mistakes. They do what good teams do — they make you pay,” Richman explained. The Coyotes punished NDSU for their mistakes, primarily the 17 turnovers that became 18 points. USD also turned 14 offensive rebounds into 14 points.
Richman and Miller both shared the sentiment that the Bison have to begin to play a complete game in order to win. “We can sit here and talk about how we played in the second half, and certainly there were some encouraging things, but there’s 40 minutes on the clock,” Richman commented.
Miller echoed that, adding that he is confident the Bison can turn the tides. “If we bring it for all 40 minutes, we’re in my opinion the scariest team in the Summit League, and we’ll start to show that from here on out,” he said.
Now 4-5, the Bison are tied on conference record with Denver at No. 4 in the standings. Four of NDSU’s final five conference games are away from home.
“As much as the loss hurts, there’s about 29 days until we need to be where we need to be, and that’s the whole goal now,” Richman said.
The next opportunity to move in the right direction will come next Thursday at Oral Roberts.