Nelson’s 36-point performance guides Bison to 91-75 thrashing of Fighting Hawks

NDSU gets back on track in win over UND

Returning to the court following a two-game skid where they dropped home games to Oral Roberts and Kansas City last week, the Bison welcomed their rival, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to the Scheels Center for a Friday night showdown. The Herd was without their big man Andrew Morgan, who missed Friday’s game due to a family matter. Filling that role would be fellow big man, sophomore Joshua Streit, who paid homage to Morgan by wearing his signature headband. More notably, Grant Nelson wowed the season-high 3,867 fans in attendance with a career-high 36 points.

The Hawks started out hot on a 5-0 run with a long ball from 2022 North Dakota Mr. Basketball Treysen Eaglestaff and a reverse layup by Jalun Trent but it wouldn’t take long for Nelson and the Baby Bison to start cooking. In the next six minutes of play, Nelson would score 10 points all inside the paint. Using his height advantage over Hawks defenders, Nelson hit five of his first six shots to pace the Herd on his way to 24 first-half points.

“I just took advantage of my height on their bigs,” Nelson claimed. “They weren’t digging much in the post and if they did, I’d find a 3-point shooter on the perimeter.”

Despite Nelson’s relentless post-play, the Hawks still maintained a 20-17 lead at the first media timeout at 12:02, which was the first stoppage of play in just over four minutes. In a matter of about 90 seconds of play, Hawks guard Matt Norman hit three long balls from three different areas of the court igniting his career-high 25-point night.

“For me, shots were falling,” Norman said of his efforts. “Everyone was giving their best effort. Fortunately for me tonight some shots were going in.”

North Dakota’s lead would soon rise to six at 31-25 with a series of buckets by A’Jahni Levias but would climb no further. Nelson would continue to display his versatility by extending his range to the three-point line. Lance Waddles also came through and hit a step-through runner and long ball of his own as he chipped in offensively. In each of the last two games, Waddles has scored nine points and played in at least 24 minutes for the first time in Summit League play.

“You’ve got choices to hang your head and pout or you can grind through some things,” Bison Head Coach David Richman said of Waddles. “We’ve been getting Lance up and he’s been doing extra weight sessions.”

The Bison would stretch the lead up to nine at 50-41 with more Nelson dominance in the paint and a Tajavis Miller slam on a breakaway steal. The last 90 seconds, however, looked like a carbon copy of last week’s closing moments of the opening frame. North Dakota scored five points in that stretch, culminated by a long ball from Eaglestaff as time ran down. At the half, despite shooting 60%, the Bison led by just seven at 53-46, leading to evident frustration for the Bison and their head coach.

“Really it was pretty quiet at halftime,” Richman said candidly. “We’ve got to be better defensively. We’ve got to be better finishing possessions.”

That message was heard and the Bison came roaring out of the gates to start the second half. The first five minutes have been an area of concern for the Bison but an 8-0 run flipped the script the rest of the way. After another Nelson three and a couple Jacari White drives to the tin, the lead had ballooned to 66-51.

“We talk, we write stuff on the board but that’s nothing,” Richman said of halftime breaks. “You’ve got to put it all into action and I thought we saw action of those things. We made a couple tweaks and adjustments but mainly it’s the urgency and the grit.”

Nelson would shortly eclipse the 30-point threshold just five minutes into the second half and did so in emphatic fashion. Right out of the break, Nelson drove left, spun back to his right and slammed the ball home sending the packed student section into a frenzy.

NDSU forward Grant Nelson in action at Scheels Center on Friday night against North Dakota. Nelson led the Herd with a career-high 36-point performance. The Bison defeated the Fighting Hawks 91-75 in Summit League play. Photo Courtesy | NDSU Athletics

Down the stretch, the Hawks continued to struggle shooting the ball in comparison to their first-half showing. Nelson would soar past a defender for another slam and Boden Skunberg drove to the rim to push the lead to 20 at 87-67 as a part of his quiet 17-point night and would shortly finish the scoring with a silky-smooth floater.

The large advantage allowed for walk-on Ryan Sletten to enter the game for the Herd, as a chorus of cheers emitted from the crowd. The 91 points are the most by North Dakota State against a Division I opponent this season and they did so against one of their biggest rivals as they improve to 6-4 in conference play.

“I know it means a lot for the fans,” Nelson stated. “I’m from North Dakota. I know everyone at home is rooting for NDSU. It just gives us bragging rights, gives everyone in the state bragging rights.”

After knocking off the Hawks for the 10th time in the last 12 matchups, the Herd hits the road to face South Dakota and South Dakota State next Thursday and Saturday for 7:00 and 2:00 p.m. tip-offs respectively. The Bison will return home on Thursday, February 9 at 7 p.m. against Omaha. Student tickets are available at

“Take it game-by-game,” Streit stated on closing league play. “Play the best we can both offensively and defensively and just stay locked into the moment and not worry about the next game or the game before.”

Game Stats:

Grant Nelson; 36 Pts 7 Reb 3 Blk; Boden Skunberg; 17 Pts 7 Reb; Joshua Streit; 6 Pts 8 Reb

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