Bison looking to Hawks for an opportunity to get back on track
At the halfway point of conference play, the Bison men’s basketball team is currently tied for third with Western Illinois in the Summit League with a 5-4 record. Following a discouraging week where the Bison dropped two home games to Oral Roberts and Kansas City, the Fighting Hawks from the University of North Dakota will make the 75-mile trip south to Fargo. The Herd has had the Hawks number in recent years, winning nine of the last eleven matchups including a 71-49 thrashing on December 30 that ignited a 5-game winning streak.
Quite possibly the most important game these two rivals have played against one another was in March of 2020. In the Summit League Championship Game, the top-seeded Bison eased by the first two rounds of the conference tournament. They would take on the 6th-seeded Cinderella story North Dakota Fighting Hawks who had an unlikely chance to make the big dance. The Bison rolled the Hawks 89-53 on that Tuesday night in Sioux Falls, S.D. behind a double-double from Tyson Ward. However, the season would, unfortunately, end there due to COVID-19.
Just three short years later, the Hawks are currently sitting in last place in the Summit League at 1-8. However, that one win came last Thursday in a 17-point defeat of Kansas City, the team who just knocked off the Bison on Saturday. The Hawks did so largely to a barrage of threes, 18 to be exact. North Dakota is currently 2nd in the Summit League in three-pointers made and the 18 three-pointers are the most by a team in a Summit League game this season.
North Dakota State, as previously mentioned, crushed the Fighting Hawks nearly a month ago, 71-49 at the Betty Englestad Sioux Center. In the Bison’s first conference win of the season, they held their opponent to a season-low 49 points with 30/25/61 shooting percentages. The Bison also held UND’s leading scorer B.J. Omot to just eight points on 2-10 shooting. Grant Nelson, Boden Skunberg, and Andrew Morgan led the way for North Dakota State as they combined for 47 points and 22 rebounds.
One area the Bison hold a distinct advantage over the Fighting Hawks is rebounding. In conference play, the Bison are outrebounding the Hawks by over 1.5 rebounds per game. The interior presence of Grant Nelson, who leads the Summit League in rebounds, Andrew Morgan, and Joshua Streit will be a tall task for North Dakota’s Tsotne Tsartsidze who leads the team with just 5.1 rebounds per game.
Since the start of conference play, several Bison players have improved their play statistically. Nelson, Skunberg, Morgan, Streit, Jacari White, and Damari-Wheeler-Thomas have all seen an increase in production in the last nine games. Quite often, it’s been a different player every night stepping up for the Bison. This past Saturday, Andrew Morgan led the way with a career-high 29 points despite scoring in single digits in three of the last four games.
As the Bison look to avoid their first three-game losing streak in the conference since February 2019, they’ll need to take care of business at home against a beatable opponent. Last week’s skid could ignite the Bison once again and get them to, as Coach Richman said, “buy into the process” as the season winds down.
Tipoff from the Scheels Center between the Bison and Fighting Hawks will be at 7 p.m. on Friday, January 27. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN+ and statewide on WDAY as well as on the radio at 107.9 The Fox and Bison 1660 AM. Student tickets are available at GoBison.com/Students.