FARGO — Nobody can stop Vinnie Shahid from driving to the hoop. Tyson Ward can dunk. Jared Samuelson can shoot the 3. The bench easily goes five deep.
Not much has changed from the North Dakota State men’s basketball team that won one game and lost to Duke in the NCAA tournament last March. And that was no surprise for a team that lost one player from last season in a 104-63 exhibition victory over Dickinson State (N.D.) Wednesday night at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
The game was played as a tribute to Landon Solberg, the 12-year-old boy from West Fargo who passed away in September. Over $2,000 was raised by Gate City Bank for the Roger Maris Cancer Center.
Whether the Bison raise their game to another level will be determined at a later date. The NAIA Blue Hawks, who play in the North Star Conference, were the usual exhibition lower division opponent in front of 2,701 fans. NDSU used 13 of its 14 players in the first half alone in taking a 50-28 lead at halftime.
“I think we’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Bison forward Rocky Kreuser. “We have a lot of leadership coming back with two returning captains and four seniors.”
It’s a direct contrast to this time last year when the Bison had a lot of question marks and unproven younger players and transfers.
“Completely different team from that standpoint,” said head coach Dave Richman. “This group really believes. Because you feel good about a good situation, you put yourself in good chances to win a lot of games.”
The Blue Hawks, who finished 14-13 last year under former Bison player and assistant Josh Vaughan, kept it to an 18-13 game at the midway point of the first half. It was over after that.
A quick 15 straight capped by two Samuelson 3-pointers, made it 33-13 in a matter of just over two minutes.
NDSU went with a starting lineup of Shahid, Ward, Samuelson, Kreuser and Sam Griesel. It’s the same starting five that started the title game in the Summit League tournament and the same five that finished the season against Duke in the NCAA first round in Columbia, S.C.
The Bison went toe-to-toe with the Blue Devils in the first half. NDSU opens the season next Tuesday at another high-major opponent in Kansas State. The one burning question after the Dickinson game was whether true freshman Maleeck Harden-Hayes from Moorhead will be part of that game plan.
Harden-Hayes from Moorhead, who signed his letter of intent at 6-5 but is now 6-7, made an impression with eight points and six rebounds.
“It’s been a big jump from high school to college,” he said, “but the jump has been easier because of the senior leadership in practice.”
Harden-Hayes said he didn’t know, saying his play against Dickinson “was about going out there and having fun and not trying to get future minutes.”
Richman said his staff is still evaluating Harden-Hayes and true freshman Noah Christensen from Breckenridge, Minn.
“If those are our problems, I think we’re in a good situation,” he said. “The thing with Maleeck, you walk into the gym, long at 6-7, he looks like a basketball player, just been very pleased with his mentality and he shows up every day and competes.”
The Blue Hawks competed after the halftime deficit the first seven minutes of the second half before the Bison blew it open.
“Obviously there was a run in the second half where there was a lack of focus,” Kreuser said. “But other than that, we’re playing at a high level of basketball.”
Shahid led the way with 20 points hitting 7 of 11 shots. Six players found double figures. Samuelson’s 3 of 3 3-pointers led a 14-of-28 team effort from beyond the arc.
DSU: Stolz 3-3 0-0 6, Carlow 6-11 0-0 15, Walker 5-9 0-0 10, Wurm 0-3 0-0 0, Jackson 4-7 1-2 11, Hamilton 1-6 0-0 2, Tinnin 1-3 0-2 2, Toskic 1-8 2-2 4, Kohlus 0-1 4-5 4, Hill 2-7 0-0 6, Davidson 1-5 0-0 3. Totals: 24-63 7-11 63.
NDSU: Griesel 3-4 4- 4 10, Kreuser 4-7 1-3 10, Shahid 7-11 3-3 20, Samuelson 4-4 0-0 11, Ward 6-8 0-2 14, Eady 4-5 1-1 10, Quayle 1-3 2-2 4, Hunter 1-4 0-0 3, Wilson IV 1-4 0-0 2, Knotek 2-5 0-0 5, Cook 3-4 0-0 7, Harden-Hayes 2-2 3-4 8, Christensen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 38-61 14-19 104.
Halftime: NDSU 50, DSU 28. Total fouls: DSU 15, NDSU 12. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: DSU 23 (Hill 5); NDSU 45 (Kreuser 10). 3-point goals: DSU 8-28 (Carlow 3-6, Walker 0-2, Wurm 0-2, Jackson 4-7, Toskic 0-4, Hill 2-6, Kohlus 0-1, Davidson 1-5); NDSU 14-28 (Griesel 0-1, Kreuser 1-4, Shahid 3-6, Samuelson 3-3, Ward 2-2, Eady 1-2, Quayle 0-2, Hunter 1-3, Cook 1-2, Knotek 1-2, Harden-Hayes 1-1). Assists: DSU 8 (three with 2); NDSU 20 (Kreuser 5). Turnovers: DSU 13 (Wurm, Jackson 3); NDSU 14 (Cook 3). A-2,701.