Bison 82, Oral Roberts 80- NDSU defeated Oral Roberts on Wednesday evening, guaranteeing them a .500 or above record on the road both in league play and overall this season. It was the first time North Dakota State had won in Tulsa since 2009.
The Bison improved to 19-9 overall and 11-4 in The Summit League. They remain tied with South Dakota at the top of the league heading into the weekend's play. South Dakota goes on the road to take on IUPUI on Saturday night..
Khy Kabellis led the Bison with 18 points, connecting for a game-high four three-pointers. Kabellis also added eight rebounds and four assists. Paul Miller pitched in with a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.
Junior forward Albert Owens scored 23 points for Oral Roberts on 9/16 shooting. Owens also grabbed nine boards. It capped off a likely first team all-league season for the Golden Eagle big man.
The Bison led 48-36 at halftime, but ORU scored 15 straight points early in the second half to erase the NDSU lead.
ORU lead 72-70 with 5:00 remaining, but NDSU scored nine points in a row to secure the victory. Miller hit a baseline jumper to tie the game, Carlin Dupree made a pair of free throws, A.J. Jacobson scored a driving bucket in traffic, and Kabellis nailed a pull up three to put the Bison out of reach.
ORU battled back to within 79-77, but the Bison got a defensive stop and Dupree made another pair of free throws with 21 seconds on the clock.
The competitive balance of the game was over at 82-77, but ORU hit an off balance three as time expired to lose by two. That three was...... consequential.
What's going to happen?
Bison at Omaha, 7 PM Saturday night
NDSU heads to Omaha on Saturday night looking not only to guarantee itself a share of the Summit League title, but to avenge a season sweep from a season ago. The Mavs ended NDSU's long winning streak in Fargo and took the game in Omaha 76-69. Omaha is part of the 8-7 and 7-8 five team slop that occupy seeds three through 7 in the conference.
Minnesota native Marcus Tyus is leading the Mavs at 17.3 points per game. Tyus is an all league candidate, though he doesn't fill the stat sheet in other areas. Tra-Deon Hollins is an effective playmaker and Tre'Shawn Thurman is basically a 13 and 8 big man.
Omaha is a pretty OK matchup for NDSU. Thurman gets his, but he's only 6'7" and they don't get interior scoring from anywhere else. He isn't going to keep Werner and Jacobson busy on defense all night long.
NDSU's second half against Omaha in Fargo was one of their better halves of basketball all season long.
The Bison will likely throw Kabellis on Tyus and make the other Mavs try and beat them. A victory would clinch NDSU's first winning season on the road in conference play since the 2013-14 campaign led by Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund.
Prediction: NDSU will still believe they can win the #1 seed at tip off time and that's going to be enough for one big effort in Omaha before getting a week off prior to the Summit League tournament. They take care of business. Bison 80 Omaha 71
News and notes:
Kabellis is a star. Sophomore guard Khy Kabellis may not be the smooth scorer that Paul Miller is or the first-name-basis crowd sensation that Dexter is, but he is definitely one of the teams three most important players 28 games into his second year on campus.
Kabellis leads the Bison in minutes at over 33 per game. There isn't another Bison fan that the staff leans on more than they lean on Kabellis. He's also developed into the teams top perimeter defender. At 6'5" he has the length to guard wings, but he maintains the quickness to guard point guards like Darell Combs and Mo Evans. Kabellis chased Garett Covington around on Saturday and then held Jalen Bradley to 6 of 15 shooting on Wednesday night.
I say all that to explain his worth in the subtle ways that don't show up in the box score because they're real contributions to the team. The box score is also impressive. Kabellis runs the offense, leads the team in assists, is third on the team in scoring and has elevated his three point field goal percentage from .327 his freshman year to .387 this season.
The next two seasons will be very exciting. Kabellis and Miller have the chance to be a superstar backcourt next season and then Kabellis could get his Lawrence Alexander season in 2018-2019.
Scenarios: Just so everyone is clear, the easiest way for the Bison to clinch the #1 overall seed is for them to beat Omaha and for IUPUI to hold serve at home against South Dakota. The other way, as I understand it, is for both clubs to win and South Dakota State to beat Denver, and Western Illinois to beat Fort Wayne. Any other way you slice it I believe the Bison grab the two seed despite leading the league wire to wire.
Dylan Miller showing signs. "What are they going to do next year without Dexter?" has to be one of the #1 questions I'm asked. It's not just armchair quarterbacking, it's a legitimate concern. The answer itself might not be just increasing Miller's minutes from 10.8 minutes per game to 28, but he is showing signs of improvement. Miller has 8+ points in three of the last four games and more than that is showing signs of the aggressiveness I've yearned for as a basketball fan that can see his talent level.
He also has 15 rebounds over that stretch despite playing sparingly. One thing that makes Miller such an intriguing prospect in a big man is his free throw shooting. If he can develop an interior game on offense his 78% shooting from the charity stripe could make him a real weapon. Miller may not be the heir to the Werner throne, but he's not a liability.