SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — North Dakota State held Oral Roberts to its season-low points output on Feb. 5 when the Bison won the first game of a Summit League men's basketball weekend doubleheader 61-54.
That's the good news for coach Dave Richman's team.
The bad news? The Golden Eagle rebounded the next night and scored 80 points in an 80-74 victory.
In a nutshell, there's the key to tonight's Summit League championship game at the Sanford Pentagon, with the winner gaining a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. It will be televised on ESPN2.
NDSU will have to limit ORU's high-scoring offense, and to do so it will have to limit the Golden Eagles' 3-point shooting proficiency.
Led by Division I's leading scorer in guard Max Abmas (24.3 points per game), Oral Roberts is one of the most efficient 3-point shooting teams in the country. It ranks sixth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage at 39.3% and is in the top 10 in 3-point field goals made. ORU has made 285 of 725 3-point field goals.
Compare that to the Bison, who have made 177 of 524 3-point attempts.
"Oral Roberts is talented," Richman said late Monday night after his third-seeded team beat South Dakota 79-75 in the semifinals. "They are in the championship game for a reason, but our focus is always about us."
The Bison would be wise to focus on Abmas and ORU forward Kevin Obanor, whose tip-in as the horn sounded gave the Golden Eagles 90-88 victory over top-seeded South Dakota State in the semifinals. The 6-foot-8 Obanor averages 18 points and leads fourth-seeded ORU with 9.5 rebounds a game.
Abmas ranks nationally in several 3-point categories. The 6-1 sophomore guard is third in 3-point field goals per game, fourth in 3-pointers made and ninth in 3-point field goals attempted.
ORU made 14 of 26 3-pointers against the Jackrabbits — and Abmas only went 2 for 5.
Kareem Thompson went 4 of 6, Obanor was 2 of 4, DeShang Weaver was 2 of 2, Francis Lacis was 3 of 5 and Carlos Jurgens was 1 of 1.
"Guys were taking shots with confidence and if they didn't have the shot they were moving the basketball and that's what's important," Golden Eagles coach Paul Mills said after the game.
Thompson and Weaver have been key in ORU's tournament victories over North Dakota and SDSU. Thompson is averaging 19 points in the two games and Weaver is averaging 15. That's more than double their season averages.
When ORU and NDSU played in Fargo, Weaver didn't score in the series (going 0 of 8 from the field) and Thompson totaled six points, all in the second game.
The Bison leaned heavily on its veteran threesome of senior Rocky Kreuser (20 points, 9 rebounds), junior Sam Griesel (16 points) and junior Tyree Eady (14 points) in its victory over USD. That's not unusual. Kreuser and Griesel scored the team's final 19 points in a 22-9 run that ended the game.
"We have simply jumped on the back of three young men that exemplify everything that I want this program to be about," Richman said. "This is their program."
But NDSU also got critical minutes from true freshmen Grant Nelson and Dezmond McKinney, which has becoming a common theme the last month of the season. Nelson played almost 27 minutes and scored eight points with two blocked shots.
McKinney's become an important backup at point guard for Griesel and provides needed energy off the bench. With the Bison struggling offensively midway through the first half Monday, McKinney scored six points in a two-minute stretch that helped erase a five-point deficit.
McKinney gives the Bison a player who can get to the basket off the dribble. He finished with seven points in 13 minutes.
"Dez can just be a really big spark for us off the bench," Kreuser said. "The Energizer Bunny, picks up the opposing point guard for 90 feet, wearing them down. He can do a lot of things that makes it difficult for him on the offensive end. He was huge tonight getting to the rim and finishing."
It will be the third game in three nights for both teams, who each opened the tournament Sunday in the quarterfinals by virtue of their seeding.
"I was a part of two championships at the Big 12 level when we had to win four games in four days," said Mills, who was a longtime assistant at Baylor before taking the ORU job four years ago. "I was part of one where we had to win three games in three days. I promise you, we have guys who are working, we have guys who care and they'll be dialed in. This fatigue stuff is baloney to me."
ORU is playing in its first Summit League title game since 2011. It lost to Oakland that year and is looking for its first championship since winning three in a row 2006-08.