Miller moving up in Bison record books heading into Summit League play
FARGO—Paul Miller was already committed to play for the North Dakota State men's basketball program. Then he saw Lawrence Alexander's heroics as the Bison beat Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament in 2014. Miller wanted to play for the Bison even more.
Miller watched and learned in his freshman season during Alexander's Summit League player of the year campaign in 2014-15. As he creeps up on Alexander in the school record books, Miller just wants to be next in line.
Miller scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Bison to a 99-50 victory over the University of Jamestown, an NAIA school, on Saturday, Dec. 30, at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
Miller made 7 of 12 shots and shot 5-for-7 from the 3-point line for 207 made 3-pointers in his career. Miller tied Alexander for seventh-most made 3-point shots in NDSU history.
"I thought the whole conference season (Alexander) played just unbelievable," Miller said. "Tonight was a good start to do what he did and pick it up in conference and lead us to a championship."
The Bison head into their conference schedule having won five of their last six games with their only loss in that stretch coming at top-20 ranked Arizona on Dec. 18. Miller thought Jamestown was a good team to play coming off a seven-day holiday break after winning the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational title in El Paso, Texas.
Miller also said the shooting ability of Jamestown, which was averaging 91.6 points per game and was shooting an NAIA Division II-best 44 percent from 3-point range, resembles South Dakota State. The Bison host the Jackrabbits on Wednesday, Jan. 3, then play at the University of South Dakota on Saturday, Jan. 6. Those two teams were picked ahead of the third-place Bison in the Summit League preseason polls.
"Everything gets a lot harder," Miller said. "We've got to come focused on Monday and be ready and focus on the game."
The Jimmies (11-5) kept the game close in the first 10 minutes. Leighton Sampson, the Jamestown scoring leader at 17.7 points per game, scored eight points in the first five minutes of the game. NDSU's big men found a way to get around Sampson and limit his post touches, holding him to just one more bucket for the rest of the afternoon.
Bison head coach Dave Richman said he wanted more energy out of the gate and got it down the stretch. The Bison (8-6) started moving the ball more effectively and went on a 40-13 run to end the first half, including a 15-0 spurt. They also played tight defense and forced the Jimmies to shoot 32.3 percent from the field and 16.7 percent on 3-pointers.
Tyson Ward totaled 12 points and 13 rebounds for a double-double. Cameron Hunter added nine points, nine assists and four rebounds.
"I don't think we should start out slow in any game. We should come out ready to play," Ward said. "This is the game we really need to focus on so that we don't mess it up when we're going into conference."
Bison starters played until the final minutes of the game. Miller chased down a fast break for an emphatic block with about 13 minutes left while the Bison were up by 38 points, and Ward grabbed a steal and threw down a fast-break jam with about five minutes left to put the Bison up by 43.
Richman said a nonconference game at home after a long break allowed the Bison to get some minutes in and build better habits.
"If we're going to be like that, we're going to be tough," Richman said. "Our margin for error come league play is pretty small like everybody."
UJ (11-5): Johnson 2-10 2-3 8, Sampson 5-11 0-0 10, Oberweiser 1-9 2-2 5, Purintun 6-12 0-1 12, Weisbeck 3-7 0-0 6, Jevdjenijevic 1-1 0-0 2, Talley 1-5 0-0 2, Dobson 1-2 0-0 3, Birch 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 21-65 4-6 50.
NDSU (8-6): Jacobson 3-6 1-1 8, Eliason 2-5 2-3 6, P. Miller 7-12 4-4 23, Hunter 2-4 4-4 9, Ward 4-7 4-4 12, Samuelson 2-4 3-3 9, Quayle 3-4 1-1 8, Geu 3-3 2-4 8, Kreuser 3-5 0-1 7, D. Miller 4-6 0-0 9. Totals 33-56 21-25 99.
Halftime: NDSU 56, UJ 28. Total fouls: UJ 17, NDSU 7. Fouled out: UJ, Purintun. 3-point goals: UJ 4-24 (Johnson 2-9, Oberweiser 1-6, Dobson 1-2), NDSU 12-22 (Jacobson 1-3, P. Miller 5-7, Hunter 1-2, Samuelson 2-3, Quayle 1-1, Kreuser 1-2, D. Miller 1-2). Rebounds: UJ 25 (Sampson 5), NDSU 44 (Ward 13, P. Miller 5, Jacobson 4, Hunter 4, Geu 4). Assists: UJ 7 (Purintun 3), NDSU 25 (Hunter 9). Turnovers: UJ 15 (Purintun 5), NDSU 13 (Hunter 3, Ward 3). A--1,842.