A nice win, but ORU not finished
It was good stuff Thursday night at the Bison Sports Arena. North Dakota State gave Saul Phillips his best victory as a head coach, an entertaining 83-75 scoring fest over Oral Roberts before 4,165 loud and proud Bison fans who gave the old shoeb...
It was good stuff Thursday night at the Bison Sports Arena. North Dakota State gave Saul Phillips his best victory as a head coach, an entertaining 83-75 scoring fest over Oral Roberts before 4,165 loud and proud Bison fans who gave the old shoebox some serious atmosphere. Ben Woodside and Brett Winkelman were the stars, defense was not.
Nice win. And now it's time to move on.
Beating Oral Roberts in Fargo was a necessity if the Bison want to be taken seriously in their bid to win the Summit League, but on the curving highway that is a college basketball season - the one that ends at the league tournament in Sioux Falls, S.D., in March - the game was nothing more this: an early December win over an opponent that will be older, wiser and presumably better in three months.
The Golden Eagles started a true freshman in Dominique Morrison and a redshirt freshman in Kyron Stokes. They are skilled, but raw. Oral Roberts has a 6-foot-9 transfer, Kevin Ford, waiting to become eligible. He is expected to bring immediate and significant help.
"We have to get better," Phillips said. "They have a bunch of young guys who played at a very high level tonight. They're going to be a completely different team by the next time we see them."
That will be Feb. 28 in Tulsa, the regular season finale. The teams might meet again a week later in the all-important conference tournament.
Golden Eagles coach Scott Sutton, while heavily praising the Bison, sounded like a fellow willing to accept an early-season defeat if there is a victory or two late in the season.
"That last game of the year is a lot more important to us," Sutton said.
That doesn't diminish what the Bison did this go-around.
Woodside was, as always, simply magnificent in scoring 24 points and handing out eight assists against two turnovers. His deep 3-pointer with 1:19 left that gave NDSU a 78-72 lead, shot from a dead stand-still over 6-3 Robert Sango with the shot clock running down, was delivered with an assassin's cool. The Golden Eagle coaches looked like they were the ones who took the bullet.
Winkelman (20 points, 12 rebounds) was massive in the second half and Mike Nelson (15 points) was his usual self, playing the Energizer bunny. There was even a bonus appearance from two other Bison players, which is two more than usual. Junior-college transfer Dejuan Flowers (13 points, eight rebounds) provided a presence around the hoop and Mike Tveidt (11 points) made shots when they counted.
"I happened to notice we had five guys in double figures. It's great to have that balance," Winkelman said. "We know we can go as hard as we can as long as we can."
That was not the case last week at Minnesota, and for all of last season. The Bison were the Big Three and a Bunch of Other Guys on Scholarship. If NDSU hopes to realize its NCAA dreams with a Summit League tournament title, the improvement from the bunch of other guys will have to continue. You can expect Oral Roberts to get better.
But for one night, the Bison had their share of fun.
"On a lot of levels, this was a huge game for us," Winkelman said.
The Bison passed the first test. There are more to come.
Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or firstname.lastname@example.org . McFeely's blog can be found