Ward’s Double-Double Sinks Leathernecks

NDSU storm past big WIU squad

BRITTANY HOFMANN | THE SPECTRUM Tyson Ward’s seventh career double-double made the difference against the Leathernecks.

Sparked by a double-double from junior guard Tyson Ward, the North Dakota State men’s basketball team defeated Western Illinois by a score of 85-69 this past Thursday.

The Bison (8-10, 2-2 Summit League) momentarily trailed in the contest, but an early spark from sophomore Rocky Kreuser gave NDSU a lead it would never relinquish. The White Bear Lake, Minnesota native knocked down a pair of 3-pointers on consecutive possessions, then muscled to the basket to give the Bison a five-point advantage. Jared Samuelson added a triple of his own, leading Leathernecks head coach Billy Wright to call a timeout to focus his squad.

Wright’s effort proved to be in vain, as the Bison continued to keep up the scoring. Deng Geu checked into the contest for NDSU and made an immediate impact, sinking easy layups over WIU’s Jordan Hughes. Geu’s quick flash saw the Bison’s advantage swell to 11 points at the 12-minute mark of the first half.

The Leathernecks trimmed the margin to four points, but a triple from Tyree Eady and a Ward end-to-end layup kept WIU at bay.

Geu provided another late flash to close the half. The 6-foot-8-inch junior showcased his athletic prowess, skying over the Leathernecks’ 7-footer Brandon Gilbeck for an offensive rebound. Geu sidestepped the reigning Summit League Defensive Player of the Year for the basket. On the ensuing possession, Geu found space at the top of the key and drained a triple as Gilbeck closed in. The score gave the Bison a 14-point lead, a high-water mark for the opening frame.

NDSU’s success in the paint against a big-bodied Western Illinois squad was pivotal in the win. Led by Gilbeck, the Leathernecks boast five players over 6-foot-7-inches. Still, the Bison managed 22 points in the paint in the first half.

“The big men did a great job of sealing them off when driving to the basket,” Ward explained afterward. “Geu and (Kreuser) are working their butts off down there, and that’s what led to our success going to the basket.”

That success immediately carried into the second half, with Ward the primary beneficiary of Kreuser’s work in the post. The duo combined for 14 points across the first six minutes, a stretch during which the Leathernecks managed only six points.

The opening run ultimately buried Western Illinois. The Bison maintained at least an 11-point lead throughout the entirety of the second half. The advantage ballooned to a game-high of 22 points.

The Bison were led by Ward’s 17 points and 13 rebounds. He was joined by Geu, Kreuser, Samuelson, Sam Griesel and Vinnie Shahid in notching double-digit scoring. The Bison were efficient offensively, averaging 1.2 points per possession on 52 percent shooting.

In his return to the starting lineup, Griesel tallied 12 points and 3 assists. A freshman who had started since the onset of the season, Griesel was sidelined for 11 games due to injury. The former first-team Super-State from Nebraska demonstrated impressive ability driving to the net and shooting from distance.

“You see up and down the box score what we feel like we have from a depth and versatility standpoint with six different guys in double figures,” head coach Davie Richman commented.

Richman said he was satisfied with the way his young squad responded after dropping two straight conference games. “We had a sour taste in our mouth, particularly how we performed defensively on the road against Omaha,” he remarked. “You look at the stats that matter: defending, rebounding and taking care of the ball, and I think we did an excellent job.”

“You look at the stats that matter: defending, rebounding and taking care of the ball, and I think we did an excellent job.”

Bison Head Coach Dave Richman

While the Summit League has featured high-scoring contests this season, the Bison have favored a defensive identity. That was missing when the Bison surrendered 90 points against Omaha, but NDSU bounced back Thursday. The Herd out-rebounded WIU by a margin of 13, a crucial category when trying to limit second chance points and get stops.

“We came out with a lot of energy, and that’s something — especially in the Omaha game — we lacked,” Griesel said. “We’re at our best when we play with a lot of emotion.”

The Bison improved to 8-10 on the season and 2-2 in conference action. NDSU’s next outing will come against Denver in the Mile High City this coming Thursday. The Bison will return home to square off with in-state rival and Summit League debutantes North Dakota 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19.

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