FARGO — The football team was honored at halftime, carrying eight Division I FCS national championship trophies to center court. Team Makers booster club presented the athletic department with a check for $5.2 million. And the men’s basketball team took care of the University of Denver.
Not much went wrong for North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. The Bison never trailed for the second straight home game and defeated the Pioneers 82-70 before 3,006 fans.
Just a few days after struggling from the field in a loss at South Dakota State, senior guard Vinnie Shahid responded with a near-perfect shooting performance. He was 8 of 10 from the field and finished with a game-high 29 points.
“My teammates did a good job of finding me and trusting me with the ball,” Shahid said.
As a result, the Bison improved to 14-7 overall and remained near the top of the Summit League at 5-2. Last place Denver fell to 1-7 overall and 5-17 in the Summit.
Shahid was 4 of 16 from the field against the Jackrabbits. He quickly put that behind him against the Pioneers with a performance that best can be described as typical Vinnie.
“We can’t let one game affect us,” Shahid said.
Guard Cameron Hunter also put behind a recent four-game slide of 4-for-21 shooting with a double-double against DU. He finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
“I think I was more locked in on the defensive end, I was going to get rebounds,” Hunter said. “I feel like that’s what got me going and what started my offense.”
NDSU threatened to creep away from the Pioneers late in the first half with eight straight points, half by Hunter. His smooth 15-foot fadeaway jumper made it 29-17.
Included in the surge were two Denver shot clock violations when its offense looked disjointed.
But Denver closed with six straight of its own and it was 29-23 at halftime.
The Pioneers continued to keep the Bison in eyesight for the first several minutes of the second half. Jase Townsend, the Summit League’s leading scorer in conference play at 22.3 points per game, hit a 3-point shot with 13 minutes remaining that tied it at 41-41.
That got the attention of the Bison crowd and the players responded with seven in a row for a 48-41 lead, capped by a Hunter 3-pointer with 11 minutes, 31 seconds left. Later, Rocky Kreuser’s 3-point play gave the Bison a 10-point advantage, and Shahid’s 3-pointer off a Denver turnover made it 57-44 with just under 10 minutes remaining.
Another DU turnover was followed by Tyree Eady’s tip-in off a fastbreak and NDSU was in command with a 15-point advantage.
NDSU did its damage with one of its main scoring threats, forward Tyson Ward, playing only 16 minutes.
“I just didn’t think he played his best,” said Bison head coach Dave Richman. “We had some other guys step up and play better, and that’s the beauty of this team is we have some versatility.”
Kreuser, showing aggressiveness to the hoop, added 18 points.
“We did some things differently today,” Richman said.
Another difference was getting starting guard Sam Griesel back from an injury. The sophomore, out since early December with a knee injury, played 15 minutes off the bench. But starting guard Jared Samuelson, who has battled shoulder problems this season, left the game in the first half with possibly the same issue.
“Obviously a concern, same shoulder,” Richman said. “It’s disappointing. I do know with Jared Samuelson, there is nobody tougher, and if he can play he’s going to play. That being said, it’s my job to be smart with him, too.”
DU (5-17, 1-7 Summit): Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Murkey 8-22 6-9 24, Eastmond 0-0 0-0 0, Townsend 8-17 4-5 23, Gatlin 4-8 0-0 8, Kurnaz 1-1 2-2 4, Nzekwesi 2-3 0-0 5, Green 1-3 2-2 4, McGlashan 0-0 0-0 0, Bickham 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 24-55 16-20 70.
NDSU (14-7, 5-2 Summit): Kreuser 5-9 7-7 18, Shahid 8-11 10-12 29, Eady 3-8 0-0 6, Hunter 4-7 4-4 14, Ward 1-5 1-2 3, Witz 0-1 2-2 2, Griesel 2-4 0-1 4, Samuelson 0-0 0-0 0, Quayle 1-1 1-2 4, Harden-Hayes 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 24-47 27-32 82.
Halftime: NDSU 29, DU 23. Total fouls: DU 17, NDSU 24. Fouled out: Jones. Rebounds: DU 28 (Murkey 9); NDSU 32 (Hunter 10). 3-point goals: DU 6-13 (Murkey 2-4, Townsend 3-6, Nzekwesi 1-1 , Green 0-1); NDSU 7-15 (Kreuser 1-2, Shahid 3-4, Eady 0-2, Hunter 2-4, Ward 0-1, Quayle 1-1, Harden-Hayes 0-1). Assists: DU 10 (Eastmond, Townsend 3); NDSU 7 (Hunter 3). Turnovers: DU 12 (Jones, Towsend 4); NDSU 12 (Shahid 5). A-3,006.