FARGO-North Dakota State's non-conference series with one of the top teams in the Missouri Valley Conference will go down as a split. The Summit League Bison couldn't close a sweep at home against Missouri State on Monday night at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
An untimely scoring drought late was NDSU's downfall and the Bears took a 71-58 victory on a night when blizzard warnings were common in the Red River Valley.
NDSU got cold, too.
The Bison went over four minutes without scoring and MSU took advantage to take a 63-52 lead with 4:17 remaining. It was a different story from the first time the teams met-a 57-54 NDSU win in Springfield, Mo.
As Bison senior Paul Miller said afterward, NDSU poked the bear, so to speak, with the win last month.
"I just thought they brought more energy," Miller said of the difference. "They came out and they wanted to beat us."
The bear also shot better in the rematch. MSU, which was 1 of 17 from 3-point range at home, was 8 of 27 from beyond the arc this time.
"They're hard to play against, but we were so bad offensively at our place," said Bears head coach Paul Lusk.
The Bison couldn't close the deal in the first half, also, seeing a lead they held for most of the first 20 minutes disappear via a 10-2 run by the Bears. Jarred Dixon's running one-handed 3-point shot at the buzzer gave Missouri State a 37-32 lead at halftime.
Moreover, the Bears did it despite-at that point-NDSU holding their best player and NBA prospect, 6-foot-9 forward Alize Johnson, to just 3 of 8 shooting and three turnovers. That didn't last.
It was obvious getting Johnson going was the mission for MSU at the outset of the second half. He scored his team's first seven points and the Bears maintained their advantage. A few minutes later, however, the Bison got more active on their offensive end.
Nine straight culminated by A.J. Jacobson's 3-pointer and two free throws gave the Bison a 50-49 lead, meaning the last nine minutes was a sprint to the finish.
NDSU never got there. Leading 53-52, the Bears put the defensive clamps on the Bison and eight straight points put the home team in a hole.
"I thought they played well down the stretch," Miller said. "We went on a run there in the second half and they answered it well."
Johnson recovered from the early struggles to finish with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds.
"We went to him early but he was not in rhythm," Lusk said. "Yeah, he did a good job in the second half. We dominated the glass and that was important."
The Bears, who improved to 8-2, outrebounded NDSU 42-26. The result left the Bison 3-5 overall with a Saturday date at the University of North Dakota looming.
"That's a very athletic, very deep, very experienced team we faced tonight," said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. "And they played like it. They got clicking on all cylinders after we took the lead and we didn't have enough juice to finish it."
MSU (8-2): Church 2-5 1-1 5, Rhodes 4-7 1-2 11, Johnson 9-16 1-1 21, Dixon 3-7 0-0 7, Miller 2-4 0-0 4, Lawrence 0-0 0-0 0, Scurry 5-9 3-5 13, Rousseau III 3-6 0-0 8 , Kreklow 1-7 0-0 2, Bhullar 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 29-61 6-9 71.
NDSU (3-5): Jacobson 1-4 2-2 5, Eliason 2-4 2-2 6, P. Miller 6-13 2-2 16, Samuelson 1-3 0-0 3, Ward 1-5 0-0 2, Quayle 3-5 0-0 8, Hunter 2-6 1-2 6, Geu 3-6 0-0 6, Kreuser 1-4 0-0 2, D. Miller 1-3 1-2 4. Totals: 21-53 8-11 58.
Halftime: MSU 37, NDSU 32. Total fouls: MSU 13, NDSU 13. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: MSU 42 (Johnson 10); NDSU 26 (P. Miller 9). 3-point goals: MSU 7-18 (Rhodes 2-5, Johnson 2-4, Dixon 1-2, Scurry 0-1, Rousseau III 2-3, Kreklow 0-2); NDSU 8-27 (P. Miller 2-7, Samuelson 1-3, Ward 0-1, Quayle 2-4, Hunter 1-4, Geu 0-1, Kreuser 0-1, D. Miller 1-1). Assists: MSU 9 (four with 2); NDSU 10 (P. Miller 4). Turnovers: MSU 11 (Church, Johnson 3); NDSU 8 (Ward 3). A-1,704.