Photo By Dave Eggen/Inertia
In their second consecutive Summit League Tournament title, the North Dakota State men’s basketball team had all the correct answers. It was kind of like taking an exam only the Bison studied and their opponent, sixth-seeded North Dakota, overslept. Unfortunately, North Dakota overslept for the biggest basketball game in the program’s Division I tenure.
The Bison men are headed back to the NCAA Tournament with a resounding 89-53 win. North Dakota State heads into Selection Sunday with an impressive 25-8 win-loss mark.
“It’s been a tremendous journey that we still get to continue on together as a family. It makes it real special since this is an unbelievable group of guys,” said head coach Dave Richman following the win. “You can tell they know how to play basketball but what you don’t see is that they’re better young men, better students. That is what I’m most pleased with.”
The Bison began the game about as strong as you can. They held North Dakota to one field goal in the first eight minutes and change of the first half. On the offensive end, the Bison made it a point to get the ball down low. It paid off with NDSU taking a commanding 21-2 lead with 11:41 left in the half. Three early Bison three-pointers only helped things in building said lead. One cannot underestimate how hard North Dakota State played defensively early on either. It was that lockdown defense that truly swung the momentum towards the Bison early.
“Defensively, Marlon [Stewart] is a really good player. It was a team effort, it wasn’t just individual. He is a really good player and that’s a really good team. We just played good defense today,” said senior Jared Samuelson on the team’s defensive effort tonight.
North Dakota woke up slightly on the offensive end in the final 12 minutes of the half. However, the Bison had been awake all game as they continued to pour in baskets. North Dakota State finished the first 20 minutes nailing eight of 11 three-pointers. Couple that with a physical and dominant defensive performance and the Bison had the recipe for success through one half.
“It’s contagious. We were sharing the ball contagiously and we had confidence in each other. When one guy would see one go in, it boosted the confidence of the next guy,” said senior Vinnie Shahid.
At halftime, the Bison led 49-22 with NDSU shooting 52 percent from the field. Vinnie Shahid led the Bison with 16 halftime points.
It’s one thing to thoroughly dominate a team through one half, but it’s another to dominate a team wire to wire. With 20 minutes to play, it was vital for the Bison to stay aggressive and not “not play to lose” as some say. Needless to say, the Bison came out aggressive on offense albeit in a different way. They continued to run North Dakota defenders off of screens in order to get open shots. With the Fighting Hawks playing their third game in as many days, it was hard for their legs to handle it all.
“Foot on the gas, continue to push and push the lead,” said Tyson Ward of the team’s second-half mentality. “I can’t credit my teammates enough. They really showed out tonight.”
With just over 10 minutes remaining, NDSU held a 62-38 lead over the Fighting Hawks. Much of this was thanks to the senior Shahid, who had piled in 21 points with 10 minutes and 43 seconds still remaining.
The final 10 minutes were really icing on the cake for North Dakota State as they increased their lead en route to their second straight Summit League Tournament title. Dave Richman and company would end up prevailing 89-53. Vinnie Shahid, Sam Griesel and Tyson Ward were named to the All-Tournament team with Shahid being named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“Our guys understand moments. It’s hard because when you get the taste that we got last year, that is all that’s in your head,” said Richman. “You just want to get back and my thing to the guys for so long was that we’re not going to get back if we don’t hit the singles if we don’t attack the process.”
North Dakota State will now await their fate in the NCAA Tournament. Selection Sunday is this coming Sunday, March 15.
“We’ll wait until Sunday to figure out where we’re going, but I know this, we’re going to be really excited wherever we go,” Richman said.
Tonight’s Top Performers
Vinnie Shahid: 25 points
Tyson Ward: 23 points/13 rebounds
Jared Samuelson: 11 points