NDSU Athletics

Bison Hoops Weekly Check-in: How Sweep it Is

North Dakota State stopped a brief two-game skid by blowing out chief rival South Dakota State at home. With 26 points and 12 rebounds Junior AJ Jacobson turned in his finest performance of the season.

What happened?

Bison 82 SDSU 65 - Following a rough performance against South Dakota the prior Saturday, A.J. Jacobson exploded for career highs with 26 points and 12 rebounds to lift the Bison to an 82-65 win over South Dakota State at the Scheels Center on Wednesday night.  It capped off the first sweep of South Dakota State since the 2013-13 season. 

NDSU improved to 16-8 on the season and 8-3 in Summit League play. 

Khy Kabellis added 16 points, six rebounds and three assists for NDSU.  The Bison point guard is shooting the ball at a much higher rate this season, especially from three.  His 4-8 performance against the Jacks raised his season three point shooting percentage to 36%.  Kabellis shot it at a shade over 32% from distance as a true freshman a season ago.  

NDSU shot well as a whole on Wednesday night as well.  The Thundering Herd shot 52% for the game and limited the Jacks 37%. 

Mike Daum was a one man wrecking crew for the Rabbits, consistently drawing a double team and making NDSU extend their post defense to the three point line.  Despite bting the focus of the Bison defense, Daum scored 26 points including his own 4-8 performance from distance. 

South Dakota State specifically targeted NDSU SLPOTY candidate Paul Miller on defense, guarding him all 94 feet and refusing to switch off of him in the half court game.  The rest of the Bison responded with 70 of NDSU's 82 points.

The Jacks went zone and caused a slow in NDSU's second half scoring until Coach Richman went to the bench for Jared "Jimmy Chitwood" Samuelson, who knocked down two threes and quickly pulled SDSU back into man to man defense.

What's going to happen?

Denver at NDSU, 2:00 Saturday

NDSU has their first chance this season to avenge a conference loss this Saturday.  The Bison were dealt their worst league defeat of the season at the hands of the Pioneers earlier this season.  Daniel Amigo destroyed the Thundering Herd with 28 points and 12 rebounds, leading to a 79-55 victory.

With the University of South Dakota making things very interesting in the Summit League the Bison are under pressure to navigate the rest of the season with one or fewer losses.  Coach Richman's crew can't be too pleased about getting beaten up in the mountains, either.

With teams starting to focus on Paul Miller defensively, it's important for Kabellis to keep trying to score, especially on Rosga, and for Werner to keep Amigo as busy on the defensive end as he has been on offense.

If NDSU is able to play the way they did against South Dakota State, they'll take care of the Pios and even the season series.  Prediction: NDSU 68 Denver 61

News and notes: 

All the arrows in his quiver.  As long as I have covered Richman's team he's had a pretty rigid (and kinda small) rotation of players that he uses in close games.  The same players would generally come off the bench at the same time, and the starters would check back in at the same time.  This season seems to be a little more flexible.

Richman regularly uses Dexter Werner (of course) and Tyson Ward (we'll get to him later) off the pine, but guard Jared Samuelson and big men Deng Geu and Spencer Eliason are being used situationally.  Samuelson is used any time the Bison need a threat from downtown, whether to spark a comeback or to shoot a club out of a zone.  The true freshman is firing at an astonishing 44% from distance, and rarely turns the ball over.

Eliason is being used against skilled big men for his defensive prowess and to keep fouls off of Dylan Miller and Werner.  Geu has the athleticism to guard from 1-4 and also has the ability to score in bunches. He's been used to get the Thundering Herd back in to games as well.  Coach Richman and Associate Head Coach Jayden Olson delegate the substitutions, and watching them play a little chess instead of checkers has been fun, and good for the end result.

Struggling with post defense.  NDSU, as they usually do, are leading the Summit League in defense.  With that said, there is certainly one area they are struggling with: individual performances from skilled big men.  24 and 8 from Mike Daum on 12/28.  28 and 12 from Daniel Amigo as I mentioned before.  28 and 9 from Albert Owens in Fargo.  24 and 9 from Matt O'Leary in Indianapolis and another 26 and 7 from Daum in Fargo two days ago.

Werner, as good as a player as he is, is still only 6'6" tall and is far from the top rim protector in the Summit.  When he players alongside AJ Jacobson the Bison don't have a whole lot of post defense.  With that said, the Werner/Jacobson front court is averaging 22.5 points a game, and are two of the more seasoned Bison on the roster.

Still, it might not be terrible to see a little more Spencer Eliason and Deng Geu for longer stretches.  I particularly like stretches with Geu and Werner playing together, allowing Jacobson to play the wing.  Food for thought.

Two away from 1,000.  Paul Miler is now six points away from scoring 1,000 points in his young Bison career.  AJ Jacobson needs just three.  Saturday should be a cool moment for both players.

The Bison have been linked to Williston State 6'6" wing/forward Jamil Jackson.  Jackson would have 3 seasons to play in four years if he signed on to play at NDSU.

AJ Jacobson has been named CoSIDA Academic All-District for the 2nd straight year.  AJJ is carrying a 3.99 GPA.

Tyson Ward might have been a steal.  Ward might not have the minutes load on him that Khy Kabellis had a season ago, but considering Ward had no clear path to playing time on the wing his contributions might even be more impressive.  Ward is clearly in the running with Deng Geu for the best athlete on the team, but it's his polish that impresses me the most.

Ward is averaging 22.6 minutes per game over the last five contests and outside of Werner (who's really a starter), Ward seems to be the most trusted bench contributor in Richman's arsenal.

Ward appeared to have a breakout game against Oral Roberts.  The long lefty filled the stat sheet with 12 points, two steals, eight rebounds and three assists.  Ward then blew that performance away by being the team's best player in an overtime loss to IUPUI.

The Pride of Tampa Prep had 22 points, seven rebounds, three steals and one assist despite turning the ball over just once.  Ward, with his length, appears to have Taylor Braun-type potential (and wears the same number).  Pay attention to the freshman's contributions down the stretch.

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