FARGO — It was set up to be a game-winning shot by somebody for North Dakota State. But no shot ever came.
The Bison, trailing by one and with the ball with 16 seconds remaining, saw their chance to remain in first place in the Summit League go awry Friday night at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
The Jackrabbits won it with their defense in a 68-67 victory before 1,734 fans.
“Two of the top teams in the Summit League ever since I’ve been here,” said Bison guard Sam Griesel. “South Dakota State games are the most fun games because of the high intensity and the crowd is into it. We just couldn’t finish.”
Charlie Easley’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 16 seconds remaining went down as the game winner. It was Easley who got the start after leading scorer Noah Freidel left the team earlier this week for personal reasons.
After a time out, NDSU got the ball to Rocky Kreuser on the right lane, but Kreuser found no room against SDSU center Doug Wilson. He flipped it out to Maleeck Harden-Hayes, who drove the lane but didn’t get a shot off at the horn.
For Wilson, the defensive stop put a nice touch on a tough offensive night; he was just 2 of 10 with four points.
“He had a tough night finishing around the basket and they did a good job making it hard on him,” said SDSU head coach Eric Henderson. “When we needed him most, he came through. He’s a terrific defender. They had the ball where they wanted and we had the guy guarding that we wanted.”
It was NDSU’s first loss in the front half of Summit doubleheaders this season. The teams will go at it again Saturday night at 7:30. SDSU, at 7-2 in the Summit League, could put a big damper on NDSU’s regular season title chances with a sweep. The Bison are 9-4.
“We’ll see how we respond,” said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. “We have a chance to respond. It’s not going to be any different if we don’t change some things.”
Like the first half, during which Richman said his team was a step slow.
The Bison hit their last three shots of the first half to prevent going into halftime down double digits. As it was, the Jackrabbits, who led at one point 38-25, had a 40-34 advantage. NDSU needed to find a way to get leading scorer Kreuser going. He was held without a field goal in the first 20 minutes.
Kreuser did get going in the first minutes of the second half with a couple quick field goals. A one-handed driving dunk by Grant Nelson cut the SDSU lead to 45-43. SDSU’s Baylor Scheierman quieted the crowd with a 3-pointer and the Jacks maintained their lead.
The Bison crawled within 55-53, but once again Scheierman responded with the Scheels crowd getting into it.
He couldn’t keep them in front alone, however.
Harden-Hayes’ layup off a turnover and his 3-pointer a couple possessions later gave the Bison their first lead of the game at 60-57 with 5:40 remaining. They were Harden-Hayes’ first points of the game.
Later, Nelson’s 3-pointer from the right wing with 1:59 left gave NDSU a 65-60 advantage. It didn’t last. Scheierman’s long 3-pointer tied it at 65 with 1:01 remaining.
It was another fight to the finish between these teams with the big shot from Easley. It was his third 3-pointer of the game.
“Charlie has been fantastic,” Henderson said. “He’s just taken advantage of opportunities and he’s been doing it before tonight. He’s hit big shots consistently the last three, four games.”
SDSU (13-5, 7-2 Summit): Appel 2-4 0-0 4, Dentlinger 5-6 3-3 13, Wilson 2-10 0-0 4, Scheierman 6-17 0-0 16, Easley 3-5 0-0 9, Arians 4-6 0-0 10, Mims 3-5 0-0 9, Wingett 1-3 0-0 3. Totals: 26-56 3-3 68.
NDSU (11-10, 9-4 Summit): Kreuser 5-13 2-3 13, Eady 6-8 0-0 13, Griesel 5-14 6-8 17, Cook 1-2 2-2 5, Harden-Hayes 2-2 0-0 5, Nelson 4-6 0-2 10, Skunberg 0-1 0-0 0, Wilson IV 1-1 0-0 2, McKinney 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 25-50 10-15 67.
Halftime: SDSU 40, NDSU 34. Total fouls: SDSU 8, NDSU 15. Fouled out: Appel. Rebounds: SDSU 30 (Scheierman 6); NDSU 28 (Kreuser, Nelson 5). 3-point goals: SDSU 13-25 (Scheierman 4-10, Easley 3-5, Arians 2-3, Mims 3-4, Wingett 1-3); NDSU 7-20 (Kreuser 1-5, Eady 1-3, Griesel 1-5, Cook 1-2, Harden-Hayes 1-1, Nelson 2-3, McKinney 0-1). Assists: SDSU 16 (Scheierman 6); NDSU 11 (Kreuser, Griesel 3). Turnovers: SDSU 12 (Wilson 4); NDSU 9 (four with 2). A-1,734.