FARGO — At some point after a loss to Oral Roberts on Saturday night, the North Dakota State men’s basketball players said in the immediate aftermath they’ll put the defeat behind them and look ahead to the last four games of the Summit League regular season. At least the Bison are still in the hunt.
And at least, with a bye next week, they have two weeks to prepare for South Dakota State and another week after that for South Dakota.
That was no consolation for senior forward Rocky Kreuser and junior guard Sam Griesel in the wake of the 80-74 defeat in front of 1,547 fans at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. It ended NDSU's 16-game home winning streak dating back to November of 2019.
“Obviously it hurts,” Kreuser said. “You look at it from a lot of different angles but the bottom line is we didn’t do enough to win the game tonight.”
The loss leaves the Bison at 9-3 in the Summit, which puts them behind 9-1 USD and 5-1 SDSU. What it means is the regular season crown is still up in the air between those three.
“Losing isn’t fun,” Griesel said. “We closed the gap but couldn’t get over the hump.”
Down all game, the Bison rallied with five minutes left, trimming a 10-point deficit to 63-61 on Griesel’s bucket with 3:50 left. At that point, and perhaps for the first time all season in a pandemic-restricted crowd era, the NDSU fans were into it.
Guard Max Abmas stopped the frenzy, draining a 3-pointer followed by a finger to the mouth in a “hush” sign. ORU got another key hoop later when Kareem Thompson scored with the shot clock running down, making it 70-64 with 1:02 remaining.
NDSU missed on the other end and Thompson’s two free throws made it an eight-point game.
The Bison weren’t done.
Tyree Eady’s 3-pointer cut it to 72-69 at 38 seconds. But ORU’s Carlos Jurgens converted a pair of free throws 10 seconds later in a one-on-one situation.
Ironically, for ORU, after leaning on Abmas and forward Kevin Obanor for almost two full games, it was the supporting cast who won the game Saturday. And, ironically, after shooting just two free throws in NDSU’s win Friday, the Golden Eagles were 17 of 19 from the line.
NDSU was just 7 of 14, indicative of the Bison not being at the top of their game.
“That’s where we’re at a little bit as a group,” said head coach Dave Richman. “A little bit off mentally and as I talk to other coaches in the department, you’re grinding a little bit mentally. This bye will come at a good time for our group.”
Kreuser, after ORU’s Francis Lacis missed the front end of a bonus, scored from in close and ORU led 74-71 with 11.9 seconds left. Abmas ended it with two more free throws.
It just was never a smooth night for the Bison. They averaged a turnover every two minutes for most of the first half and the Golden Eagles served notice they weren’t going back to Tulsa, Oklahoma, quietly. Still, the Bison hung close despite the subpar first half.
ORU led 34-27 at halftime and, like Friday, Abmas and Obanor were tough to stop with 25 and 23 points, respectively. Abmas’ 3-point range extended well past the arc on several occasions while the 6-foot- Obanor was the consummate inside/outside threat.
“They have very complementary styles,” Kreuser said. “Both do a little of everything. Both can get to the rim and both can shoot from the outside. Obviously, we weren’t up to the task this weekend.”
Kreuser finished with 20 points and Griesel 14. For the second straight night, the Bison weren’t sharp from long distance, hitting 7 of 26 3-pointers.
They’ll have two weeks to gear up for the biggest, and last, home weekend of the season.
“You can think about what you did for 24 hours, but after that the focus is moving on,” Kreuser said.
ORU (10-8, 7-3): Obanor 9-19 3-4 23, Weaver 0-3 0-0 0, Abmas 7-18 6-6 25, Glasper 4-7 2-2 10, Jurgens 2-6 2-2 8, Thompson 2-5 2-2 6, Lacis 3-4 2-3 8. Totals: 27-62 17-19 80.
NDSU (11-9, 9-3): Kreuser 9-17 1-1 20, Eady 3-8 1-2 9, Griesel 6-12 1-3 14, Cook 5-10 0-0 11, Harden-Hayes 1-4 3-6 5, McKinney 1-3 0-0 2, Knotek 3-8 0-0 7, Nelson 2-4 1-2 6. Totals: 30-66 7-14 74.
Halftime: ORU 34, NDSU 27. Total fouls: ORU 18, NDSU 12. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: ORU 34 (Obanor 17); NDSU 43 (Harde-Hayes 12). 3-point goals: ORU 9-28 (Obanor 2-9, Weaver 0-1, Abmas 5-11, Glasper 0-1, Jurgens 2-3, Thompson 0-2, Lacis 0-1); NDSU 7-26 (Kreuser 1-6, Eady 2-4, Griesel 1-2, Cook 1-5, Harden-Hayes 0-3, Knotek 1-4, Nelson 1-2). Assists: ORU 12 (Abmas 4); NDSU 12 (Eady 5). Turnovers: ORU 4 (four with 1); NDSU 11 (three with 2). A-1,547.