Bison 72 IUPUI 73
What happened indeed. The Bison were well on their way to a 5-3 Summit League first half. NDSU led for most of the game, and had a 10 point lead with eight minutes to play. The Thundering Herd would ultimately relinquish that lead, and lose on a three pointer by Jordan Pickett.
It was the second consecutive road loss in which the Bison had a second half lead of at least three posessions. The Bison fell at Fort Wayne on January 21st, despite leading by 7 with 14:24 left in the second half.
The issue for the Bison seems to be lengthy scoring droughts. NDSU failed to score between a three pointer by Paul Miller at the 8:38 mark, and a Dexter Werner free throw with 3:47 left to play in the game. By that point a ten point lead had turned itself into a one point deficit.
Free throw shooting was also not ideal for the Bison on Sunday afternoon. NDSU shot a paltry 44.4% from the free throw line. Werner's 2-6 performance and AJ Jacobson's 1-4 effort were particularly problematic. It's easy to give back late leads if a team can't make free throws.
The Bison were again paced in scoring by sophomore guard Paul Miller as he pumped in 21 points on 8-17 shooting. Miller added six rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes played. Werner led the Thundering Herd with nine rebounds.
Pickett, a player who was not avergaing double-digit points per game, ended with 20 points. Darell Combs, the team's leading scorer, pitched in 15 points of his own. Both teams shot better than 45%.
IUPUI finished the game tied for the conference lead at 7-2. NDSU fell to 4-4, making their climb to a top two seed in the Summit League tournament very difficult. NDSU and IUPUI will lock up again at Scheel's Arena on February 20th. That will be senior night for Kory Brown and Chris Kading.
What's going to happen?
Bison vs. Oral Roberts, Scheel's Arena, February 4th 7:00 ESPN3
NDSU has its first rematch of the season tonight against Oral Roberts. ORU is just 3-6 in Summit League play, but one of those wins came over NDSU in January. Dexter Werner missed an 18-foot fadeaway as time expired.
The Golden Eagles begin and end with Summit League preseason player of the year Obi Emegano. Emegano is averaging over 23 points per game. There isn't another Golden Eagle in double figures on a per-game basis.
Freshman forward Daquan Jeffries has been impressive, shooting 58% from the field and grabbing 4.5 rebounds a game while pitching in 20 minutes.
The Bison have to get more offensively out of players that aren't Werner or Paul Miller. Despite a slightly lower winning percentage (so far) this season than they are used to, NDSU is still 8-1 at home.
If the Bison can get the home cooking going and get a lead, it will be their ability to maintain a second half lead that becomes of utmost importance. It will be interesting to see if Coach David Richman chooses to throw defensive stopper Kory Brown on Emegano.
Prediction: Bison 69, ORU 59
Bison vs. Fort Wayne, Scheel's Arena, February 6th 4:00 MeTV
North Dakota State led their loss to Fort Wayne for most of the second half. The 'Dons are one of the 7-2 teams at the top of the league, and if the Bison are going to find a way to make a run at avoiding the dreaded Sunday-Monday-Tuesday tournament schedule, it's games like Saturday's that they have to win.
The Bison did a pretty good job on senior guard Max Landis in Fort Wayne. Landis is up over 17 points per game and carrying the scoring load since the suspension of Mo Evans.
NDSU will have to do a better job keeping freshman wing John Konchar off the glass. Konchar had an unbelievable 19 rebound performance in the Dons' 79-74 victory.
Miller and Khy Kabellis should be able to attack Landis. Not the league's best defender, Landis is playing extremely high minute totals, including 40 minutes in the January contest against NDSU.
Prediction: Bison 66, Fort Wayne 62
News and notes:
- Jacobson has been quiet. Sophomore guard AJ Jacobson had high expectations coming into the season. An honorable mention all-league player, and the only freshman on the league's all-newcomer squad, Jacobson was thought to be the next "the man" for the Thundering Herd with the graduation of Lawrence Alexander.
The Fargo native has very respectable averages, better than 12 points per game and better than four rebounds. He has cooled off as of late. Jacobson has averaged just 7.5 points per game over NDSU's last four. North Dakota State is just 2-2 in those contests.
I'd like to see AJ get a little more agressive, especially towards the end of games. He's a very good shooter. He should shoot it.
- Minutes still an issue. I wrote very nice things about strength and conditioning coach Jason Miller, but it's possible that he's doing a very good job and NDSU's guards are runnign out of gas late in games. With Kory Brown in foul trouble, Jacobson, Kabellis and Miller each played at least 37 minutes in the loss to IUPUI.
Carlin Dupree's potential return to the team isn't really a basketball decision, but his absence just might be the difference between a 4-4 Bison squad and one that woudl be 6-2. The formula for teams that are losing to the Bison in the second half of games is to pressure full-court. Dupree would give NDSU a much needed third ball-handler, and one with experience.
We'll see when and if he returns to the floor, as he did travel to Indianapolis.
- Paul Miller is stating his all-league case. Miller is in the top six of league scoring, and the top five in three point percentage. He's also 11th in rebounding, where you won't find Obi Emegano, Max Landis or Devin Patterson. Miller is now the unquestioned leader of the Herd.
Miller has a chance to be the first Bison in history to be All-Summit League three times.