Photo By Nolan P. Schmidt
Bison men’s basketball returned to their home floor at Scheels Center this early evening for their second conference match-up with Denver. The Pioneers have sat in the Summit League cellar for much of the conference stretch. However, that did not deter them from beating North Dakota State 80-65 in their first meeting in Denver back in January.
That was a different Bison team compared to the one the Pioneers would see today. NDSU had won their previous three games coming into this contest, all of them coming on the road. The friendly confines certainly seemed to aid the Bison in this one. NDSU commanded the score all night, winning 81-71 in the end.
Let’s get to it.
Number 1: Vinnie Shahid is more than a leader.
The junior has been vaunted by us and others for his tremendous leadership abilities. There is no question of that. The transfer guard from Minneapolis, Minnesota, has since become NDSU’s most reliable player on the floor as well. Coming off three phenomenal games on the road, Shahid continued his impressive string of performances tonight. He dropped in 14 first-half points, by game’s end, he had 27 big points.
This comes against one of the premier point guards in the Summit League in Denver’s Joe Rosga. Some could say Rosga and Shahid on paper looked like a mismatch in favor of Rosga. The Pioneer senior has four inches on Shahid, along with some tremendous splits and possible All-Summit League honors coming his way again. Yet, Shahid was too much for Rosga, making him the true mismatch. The junior’s burst of speed and quick first step proved more important. Rosga finished the contest with seven points on 33 percent shooting. Denver was forced to switch Rosga onto Jared Samuelson after Shahid beat him to the rim on several occasions.
In the last four games combined, Shahid is averaging 21.5 points per game along with shooting 59 percent from the field and 46 percent from long range.
It’s safe to say Vinnie Shahid is more than a leader. He is as valuable a weapon as the Bison have in their arsenal right now.
Number 2: Tyree Eady has been quietly great all season.
Eady has always been an interesting player to me. On one hand, he has the size and physical attributes to play a hybrid four. However, his skill set makes him more of a shooting guard, which is how Dave Richman uses him. His shooting ability from long range can be deadly to opposing defenses if he catches fire. Eady caught fire today, starting the game out by shotting three of four from deep. In the first half alone, the Middleton, Wisconsin, native had 13 points. He finished with 16.
You can look at Eady’s numbers and say they are just so-so on paper. The redshirt freshman was averaging 6.2 points per game coming into today. Eady scored in double figures in four games before today too. However, what is so impressive about Eady is his efficiency. On the season he shoots 41 percent from the field and 36 percent from deep. Tonight, Eady shot 67 percent from the field and 67 percent from long range.
“Be confident and stroke it, that’s what coach was telling us,” said Eady on his shooting ability today. He had plenty of good looks too as Bison big man Deng Geu was doubled most of the game.
For how impactful Eady has been this season, he still has three more years of eligibility in Fargo. One can only assume he’ll continue to improve and turn into a dangerous weapon for Dave Richman.
Number 3: There’s plenty of resolve in this team.
Dave Richman hit on it in his postgame press conference, this team has become more mentally tough and is playing with plenty of swagger and confidence. Denver did not go quietly in this game despite North Dakota State commanding the floor most of the night. The Pioneers had several runs in the second half of this game, runs that could be considered “backbreaking” or “demoralizing” for the Bison. However, whenever there was a run, there was a counter.
It’s not as if it’s coming from one single source each time either. Tonight, it came from Shahid and Rocky Kreuser, who had a stretch of nine straight points. For a young team like NDSU, seeing them counter runs is encouraging and it affirms the idea of their growing mental toughness.
As February moves along and Sioux Falls draws nigh, you have to feel good if you’re Dave Richman and his young cast characters.