SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — North Dakota State finished the first half with a scoring flurry Sunday night at the Sanford Pentagon and Missouri-Kansas City couldn't quite recover.
The Bison scored the final nine points before halftime to build a 16-point halftime lead. No. 3-seeded NDSU used that strong opening half and held of a furious late rally to hold on for a 69-65 victory against the Kangaroos in the Summit League men's basketball quarterfinals.
"I'm really proud of us being able to find a way," said Bison head coach David Richman. "It certainly wasn't pretty. ... They gave us everything we could handle. You play 40 (minutes) for a reason and we're not going to apologize for the 20-some point lead."
The Bison led by as many as 22 points in the second half before the Kangaroos sliced that lead to two points with less than one minute remaining. NDSU (14-11) is the two-time defending Summit League tournament champions. The Bison play No. 2 seed South Dakota (14-10) at 8:45 p.m. Monday, March 8, in the semifinals.
"We're going to have our hands full," Richman said of playing USD. "We need to be a better version of ourselves."
UMKC guard Brandon McKissic had a chance to tie the game late, but Bison forward Rocky Kreuser blocked McKissic near the rim with less than 5 seconds remaining to preserve a 67-65 lead. Junior guard Tyree Eady came up with the loose ball and then sank two foul shots with less than a second to play for the final margin.
"He made a pretty good move to his right hand and I got a hand on it," the 6-foot-10 Kreuser said. "Luckily we did."
Kreuser sparked that strong finish to the first half. He scored eight of those nine points, including a thunderous, two-handed dunk that gave NDSU a 35-22 lead with 31 seconds to play until halftime. Kreuser added a 3-point play extending the lead to 38-22 with 6 seconds remaining. The Bison carried that 16-point lead into the locker room.
"It was extremely important," Richman said. "You see what we're capable of at times, now we've just got to put that together and be more consistent."
Kreuser had 14 points, three rebounds and three steals in the first half. Sophomore guard Jarius Cook scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor before halftime. Kreuser finished with 16 points, while Cook ended with 15 points. Eady had 15 points and nine rebounds.
"That's just the result of us out there having fun," Eady said of building that double-digit lead.
Bison freshman Grant Nelson extended the Bison lead to 52-30 after his transition dunk with 14 minutes, 19 seconds to play in the second quarter. The Kangaroos countered by scoring 16 of the next 19 points. UMKC sophomore Josiah Allick scored 11 points during that run. The 6-foot-8 forward scored in the paint to cut the NDSU lead to 55-46 with 8:29 remaining.
Allick finished with a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds.
UMKC continued to chip away at the lead down the stretch. Senior guard Marvin Nesbitt Jr. sliced the NDSU lead to 67-65 with his short jumper with 49 seconds remaining. The Kangaroos forced a turnover on the ensuing Bison possession, but Kreuser saved the day moments later with his blocked shot against McKissic.
"We just didn't finish possessions, we just didn't handle certain situations, from a scouting report thing, well in the second half," Richman said. "We can't let our offense dictate our defense and vice versa."
The Bison scored 11 consecutive points, including six points from Kreuser, to help build an early cushion. Cook sparked that rally with a 3-pointer from the wing. Kreuser capped the surge with a 3-point play that gave NDSU a 13-4 lead with 13:24 to play in the first half. Kansas City struggled to find the range in the first half, shooting 30% (9 of 30) from the floor. The Bison also held a 26-13 rebounding edge heading into halftime.
Bison guard Sam Griesel said the Bison need to play a more complete game against South Dakota in the semifinals.
"We're going to have to bring it for 40 (minutes) and come out with a different mindset and come out for a full 40 this time," Griesel said.
UMKC (11-13): Williams 2-5 2-2 6, Kamgain 2-7 2-2 7, Allick 9-15 5-7 23, McKissic 6-16 0-2 13, Nesbitt 5-10 1-2 11, Martin 0-1 0-0 0, Boser 0-1 0-0 0, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0, House 1-3 2-2 5. Totals 25-58 12-17 65.
NDSU (14-11): Cook 5-10 3-4 15, Harden-Hayes 1-3 0-2 2, Eady 5-9 4-4 15, Kreuser 5-13 4-4 16, Griesel 2-14 5-8 9, McKinney 1-1 2-2 4, Skunberg 0-0 0-0 0, Wilson 1-1 0-0 2, Nelson 2-2 1-2 6. Totals 22-53 19-26 69.
Half: NDSU 38, UMKC 22. 3-point goals: UMKC 3-16 (Kamgain 1-3, Allick 0-1, McKissic 1-6, Nesbitt 0-2, Martin 0-1, Boser 0-1, House 1-2), NDSU 6-15 (Cook 2-4, Harden-Hayes 0-1, Eady 1-4, Kreuser 2-4, Griesel 0-1, Nelson 1-1). Total fouls: UMKC 19, NDSU 15. Rebounds: UMKC 31 (Allick 10), NDSU 39 (Eady 9). Assists: UMKC 16 (Williams 4), NDSU 10 (Eady 4). Turnovers: UMKC 6 (McKissic 3), NDSU 11 (Griesel 3).