NDSU Athletics (Christian Dudzik)

Bison Hoops Weekly Check-in: Comeback Kids

North Dakota State protected their home floor after digging themselves yet another early hole. Tyson Ward played big minutes and Paul Miller regained his form, leading the Bison past UC Davis 74-70. Next up? UND.

What happened?

Bison 74 UC Davis 70

What a whirlwind experience last night's game was.  NDSU came out hot for the first time in a long time.  The Bison led 16-11 with 11:12 remaining in the 1st half and then reverted to the offensive inefficiency that dug early holes against UND, Xavier and Missouri State.

Carlin Dupree led the Bison offense in the first half, keeping NDSU afloat while UC Davis went on a run and his Bison teammates struggled scoring the ball.  Dupree had 11 of his 15 points in the first half and helped engineer a game winning 17-4 run in the second half, running the point and moving shooter Khy Kabellis to the two in crunch time.

Tyson Ward gave the Bison big minutes, hitting two huge threes and finishing with 8 points.  Ward was thrown into duty thanks to foul trouble from AJ Jacobson.  Jacobson finished with 5 points and has been in a bit of a funk.

The game essentially ended with a Dexter Werner block of a Brynton Lemar layup leading to a Khy Kabellis rebound.  Kabellis was fouled and made both free throws.

NDSU showed improvement shooting the ball as compared to their loss to UND (35% from three and 64% from the field).

It should be noted that Bison big man Dexter Werner came off the bench, as he has done early in his career.  It's the same big man rotation NDSU used a season ago.


What's going to happen? 

NDSU at North Dakota 7:00 PM Friday

This will be the first time in NDSU's history as a Division I program that they enter a game against UND as an underdog.  The Bison are getting 4.5 points from the Fighting Hawks and it's easy to understand why.  NDSU was beaten badly by UND at home just 9 days prior and this game is in Grand Forks, a place where bad things happen.

NDSU held star guard Quinton Hooker in check, but Geno Crandall shook off a shooting slump to lead UND over North Dakota State for the first time ever in Fargo in Division 1 play.

That becomes the question.  Continue to smother Hooker and allow lesser players to beat you or stop Crandall?  Hooker has actually had decent numbers in a few UND losses so their fate isn't necessarily tied to whether or not Hooker plays well.

The Bison ran with a different lineup and a different base offense so we'll see if those adjustments pay off in Grand Forks.  NDSU has this game against UND and then a trip to Fayetteville to play Arkansas.  Losing both of those games would leave North Dakota State with just 7 non conference wins and would put a lot of stress on conference and tournament play to keep NDSU's four season streak of 20 win seasons. 

Prediction: NDSU Is still the better team.  Hard to win in Grand Forks, but harder to imagine a UND sweep. 65-60 Bison.

News and notes:

Tyson Ward is emerging as a very important player.  Ward is yet another success story in NDSU basketball's history of recruiting late in the process.  Taylor Braun and Lawrence Alexander both came to North Dakota State under unconventional circumstances.  

Ward was a late signee when Trey Miller's scholarship opened up after he left the team.  He's been an instant success.  "It's always a kids dream to come in and play right away.  (Checking in against Arkansas State) was like a dream come true.  I want to make this last."

Ward is playing about 20 minutes a game, and while his 5.4 points per game average may not seem like much, he hit huge threes against both Navy and UC Davis.  They were big shots for a freshman.  Ward has length and athleticism that makes NDSU a better defensive group when he's on the floor as well.

"It definitely killed me, that was my first time playing in it.  I didn't want to lose my first time playing UND.  We have to get the next one."

Jacobson in a rut.  Jacobson has been a "stretch 4" his entire Bison career.  AJJ has played the power forward position despite his size and lack of a back-to-the-basket game.  He's always been a bit of a liability on defense but has more than made up for it by being a go-to scorer.

Jacobson started the season off leading the free world in three point field goal percentage.  Then came the High Point game.  Jacobson has struggled defensively and has scored 7 or fewer points in five of the next six games.  Jacobson needs to move laterally on D and avoid foul trouble.

Offensive shift.  NDSU's base set looked a little different on Wednesday night.  NDSU's weave offense designed to get their 1-4 men creating mismatches and runs to the rim went missing in place of Dylan Miller and Dexter Werner operating out of the high post and lots of high pick-and-rolls.  It's an interesting wrinkle. 

NDSU's best offense consists of Paul Miller and Carlin Dupree creating, Dexter Werner working the post and AJ Jacobson shooting open 3's.  This might be a step in that direction.

Kabellis is a work horse.  Khy is playing almost 33 minutes a game, and if you throw out the Waldorf and Minnesota Morris game that average is quite a bit higher.  It's an impressive work load for a true sophomore, to be that important to a program.  Kabellis needs to improve on his assist to turnover ratio, but his scoring ability and defense this season have been beyond reproach.  Kabellis, Ward and Geu present a bright future for Bison Basketball.

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