Bison men’s basketball returns home following two-game skid 

NDSU needs wins as Summit League tournament approaches

This past weekend, the Bison hit the road in hopes of bolstering their conference record against their rivals South Dakota and South Dakota State. The Herd did not, however, take home a win in either game and lost by just 14 points combined in the two games. In hopes of regaining traction, the Herd travels back home to take on the Denver Pioneers and Omaha Mavericks, who are eighth and ninth out of ten teams in the Summit League standings at this point. 

At the peak of their five-game winning streak, the Bison defeated both Omaha and Denver on January 12th and 14th by an average of 16.5 points on the road. North Dakota State first knocked off Denver 90-70 behind Grant Nelson’s 17-point, 9 rebounds, and 4 block performance to extend the Herd’s winning streak over the Pioneers to ten games.  

David Richman’s squad followed that with a 78-65 victory at Omaha behind Boden Skunberg’s 25-point outing. The Mavericks have lost six in a row since that game and now sit at 9th in the conference just ahead of UND at 3-10. The Bison have also won seven straight games against Omaha and Richman holds a 12-5 career record over the Mavs. The most significant of those wins was the 2019 Summit League Championship in which the Herd won 73-63. The Bison went on to defeat North Carolina Central before losing to Zion Williamson and top-seeded Duke in the NCAA tournament. 

When the Mavericks roll into the Scheels Center on Thursday, they’ll be in search of just their second road win of the season in 14 tries. Omaha, however, has been in tight games on the road as of late. Before close home losses last week, the Mavs lost to Oral Roberts and Kansas City by just 12 total points and held Max Abmas and RayQuawndis Mitchell to 5-18 and 2-12 shooting each. 

The Mavericks are led by sophomore forward Frankie Fidler and sophomore guard JJ White. Fidler, who is averaging just a tick under 16 points per game in conference play, is also eighth in the league in minutes per game at 34.5. White has not only been the second scoring option for the Mavericks but is also dishing out 4.0 assists per game, nearly double as many as North Dakota State’s assists leader. 

Denver is also coming off a tough stretch as they’ve dropped four out of their last five games, like the Bison, including a 41-point smash down by Oral Roberts on January 26. The one win came over Western Illinois last Thursday in a 74-44 victory. The Pioneers held the Leathernecks to 27% shooting and no player scored over nine points. Leading Denver led in that game, and all season, was junior guard Tommy Bruner. The 6’1” transfer from Jacksonville scored 18 points on an efficient 8-13 shooting. Last time around against the Bison, Bruner was held to just 11 points and fouled out with four minutes remaining. 

The Bison will certainly need to win each of these two games to remain in the hunt for a top seed and to restore confidence within the group. A significant amount of players have improved their play greatly in conference play. Joshua Streit is shooting 88% from the field, Jacari White is coming off an 18-point game, Tajavis Miller is shooting 48% from three in league play, and Boden Skunberg has improved his play overall as well. 

The biggest star, however, has been the unicorn forward Grant Nelson. Nelson is top five in points, blocks, shooting percentage, and rebounds in league play. In his last five games, Nelson is averaging 22.4 points and 9.6 rebounds per game on 58/42/74 shooting percentages. Those kinds of stats, along with his insane highlight reels, are what’s getting him NBA looks and the recognition he deserves. 

Nelson and the Bison will take the court first with Omaha on Thursday at 7 p.m. and will follow that up by playing Denver on Saturday at 1 p.m. Each game will be broadcasted on WDAY Xtra and ESPN+. The games can also be found on the radio at 107.9 The Fox. Student tickets are available at 

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