All Dave Richman could do was put his hands on his hips, and shake his head, left to right.
It wasn’t his team’s day.
Coming into the Summit League tournament the No. 5 seed, the Bison knocked off the No. 4 seed and the No. 1 seed but couldn’t finish off No. 2 seed South Dakota State on Tuesday.
The Jackrabbits beat the Bison 67-59 inside the SDSU-friendly Denny Sanford Premier Center.
“I thought there was a stretch where we didn’t share the ball very well and some guys just tried to do some things one-on-one,” NDSU head coach Dave Richman said about the game’s turning point. “During that stretch there we had the gap to eight (points), and we were never able to come back.”
It wasn’t a pretty game for NDSU’s top two perimeter shooters.
A.J, Jacobson and Paul Miller went 2-for-13 from the floor and didn’t give the Bison anything offensively.
The two teams traded baskets for the first 10 minutes of the championship game, but when SDSU went on its 9-2 run with with 6:27 left in the first half, it looked like the Bison would have to come from behind, yet again, to win.
Carlin Dupree helped, hitting a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer, giving the Bison a little swagger and cutting the lead to 30-29.
Unfortunately, that swagger didn’t continue late in the second half.
With 14:13 left in the second half the Bison had life as Paul Miller hit a pair of free throws to give NDSU the 40-39 lead, and that swagger was back.
But the Jackrabbits responded, big. SDSU used an 11-4 run in the second half to pull ahead for good, and the Bison couldn’t rally.
“Literally this is the hardest I’ve seen them play all year,” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said about his team. “In terms of being in tune with each other. A team defensive effort. A team rebounding effort.”
For the second straight day freshman Khy Kabellis and junior Carlin Dupree lead the Bison in scoring.
Kabellis went 7-for-9 from the floor and scored 17 points; Dupree, Monday’s hero, shot 6-for-13 and finished with 19 points.
No, it wasn’t the ending that the Bison wanted, but the future looks bright for the young team.
Kabellis will have three more tries at trying to punch a ticket to the NCAA Tournament, that is, if he can stay healthy.
Just two seniors, Kory Brown and Chris Kading, exit the team’s roster.
And a lot of young talent comes back for the Bison, including its point guard.
“You look at our roster 10 of our 14 men right now are underclassmen,” Richman said. “That just adds to the unknowns.”
Kabellis, who averaged 30.1 minutes per game this season as a true freshman said many lessons can be taken away from this tournament.
“Obviously its a valuable experience being able to play and play in the championship game,” Kabellis said after the game. “I’ve just been able to learn a lot from Chris and Kory this year, and I’ll just take a lot of what they taught me with me these next couple years.”
And the experience that he gained in the last four days can only make him want to win a Summit League tournament title even more.