SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Vinnie Shahid scored 20 of his 22 points when North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team needed them the most.

As a result, this Bison team with no seniors are surprisingly going to the Big Dance. Their 73-63 victory against Nebraska-Omaha Tuesday night before 4,076 fans in the Denny Sanford Premier Center gave them the school’s fourth Summit League tournament championship and an automatic berth into the NCAA Division I tournament.

“That’s Vinnie,” Bison head coach Dave Richman said of his junior point guard who transferred from Western Nebraska Community College last year. “He’s got an it factor. I don’t know what it is, but he’s got it.”

The Bison finally found a way to beat the Mavericks, after losing 90-77 in Omaha on Jan. 22 and 58-50 in Fargo on Feb. 23. The last game was one in which the Bison led 33 of the 40 minutes but gave up a 10-point lead in the final 11 minutes of the game.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live

The Bison shot 27 percent in the second half in that game. But that didn’t happen Tuesday night — thanks in a big part to Shahid.

The 5-foot-11 Hopkins (Minn.) High School product out of Minneapolis scored 20 of his 22 points in the final 15 minutes. It all started after Omaha’s 12-2 run cut NDSU’s 41-27 halftime lead to 43-39.

Shahid scored on a drive and hit a deep 3-pointer to make it 48-39.

But Omaha, which lost in this title game two years ago to South Dakota State, went on a 12-0 run to tie the game 51-51 with 8 minutes, 37 seconds remaining.

“I wanted to be aggressive,” said Shahid, who was named the tournament’s most valuable player. “I definitely was feeling it a little bit. My teammates kept telling me at halftime, keep shooting, keep shooting.”

So he did, after scoring only two points in the first half.

Shahid drained a 3-pointer to make it 54-51. His hesitation driving layup made it 56-51. Another driving layup made it 58-51 with 5:16 remaining. Shahid’s pull-back jumper from the elbow made it 62-53.

“You can always rely on Vinnie,” said junior Tyson Ward, who had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Bison. “He has the heart of a lion.”

Then, like they have relied on all tournament, the Bison got contributions from other players.

Freshman Sam Griesel dished to sophomore Rocky Kreuser for a two-handed dunk that made it 64-56 with 1:44 remaining.

“But we weren’t thinking it was over until that clock read zero,” Shahid said.

With one minute remaining, junior Jared Samuelson drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 67-58 with 1:37 remaining.

“Not until that clock said zero,” Ward said.

Then in the final 28 seconds, Shahid made all six of his free throws to ice the win.

“Oh man … you work so hard for this and to accomplish it, it feels so amazing,” Shahid said. “We are just mentally tougher since that last time we played them.”

For the eighth straight year, a school from the Dakotas will be going to the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Either NDSU (2014, 2015, 2019 or SDSU (2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017) have won. SDSU, this year’s top seed, was upset in the opening round by Western Illinois.

The Bison became the fifth No. 4 seed to win the Summit League tournament with their win over No. 2 seed Omaha.

“We’ve really grown up,” Richman said of his team that has no seniors on the roster.

The Bison broke away from a 29-25 lead with a 12-2 run in the final six minutes of the first half to take a 41-27 halftime lead.

While Omaha failed to make a field goal during that stretch, Cameron Hunter drained two 3-pointers. Deng Geu, who dished out a pass to Hunter for one of his treys, scored on a rebound to start the run. Tyson Ward, who led the Bison with 11 first-half points, scored inside.

And with three seconds remaining before halftime, Vinnie Shahid chased down a loose ball and scored inside to give the Bison their 14-point halftime lead.

Omaha had one field goal in the last 9:17 of the first half — which was Zach Jackson’s driving dunk that helped cut the Bison lead to 29-25 with 6:20 remaining.

“Stay poised, that’s what we were telling ourselves at halftime,” said Ward, who admitted it hasn’t sunk in that his 18-15 team is going to the Big Dance. “Not yet. I’m excited. We get to go on the national stage.”

NDSU (18-15): Shahid 7-12 6-7 22, Griesel 1-4 0-0 2, Samuelson 2-6 0-0 6, Ward 6-9 2-3 15, Kreuser 4-10 0-0 9, Eady 1-1 2-2 5, Quayle 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 3-3 3-3 12, Geu 1-7 0-0 2, Horn 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-53 13-15 73.

UNO (21-11): Gibson 1-5 0-0 3, Robinson 4-9 2-3 11, Jackson 5-13 2-4 15, Pile 6-12 0-1 12, Hahn 6-14 3-3 16, Akinwole 2-4 0-0 6, Tut 0-0 0-0 0, Miller 0-0 0-0 0, Barney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-57 7-11 63.

Half: NDSU 41, UNO 27. 3-point goals: NDSU 10-24 (Shahid 2-5, Griesel 0-1, Samuelson 2-6, Ward 1-1, Kreuser 1-5, Eady 1-1, Hunter 3-3, Geu 0-1, Horn 0-1), UNO 8-18 (Gibson 1-2, Robinson 1-3, Jackson 3-5, Hahn 1-6, Akinwole 2-2). Total fouls: NDSU 12, UNO 18. Rebounds: NDSU 33 (Ward 7), UNO 33 (Pile 14). Assists: NDSU 10 (Shahid 3), UNO 6 (Robinson 3). Turnovers: NDSU 5 (five players with 1), UNO 7 (Jackson 2, Hahn 2). A-4,076.