Bison's 3-point shooting disappears when they need it most

After record-setting season, NDSU goes ice cold in NCAA tournament game against top-seeded Duke
North Dakota State Bison guard Tyson Ward (24) reacts during the first half against the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
North Dakota State Bison guard Tyson Ward (24) reacts during the first half against the Duke Blue Devils in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Colonial Life Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Against a top-ranked opponent, North Dakota State can't shoot poorly from 3-point distance and expect to have a chance to win. The Bison learned that lesson for a second time this season against Duke in the first round of the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament.

The Bison, a team that set a school record for made 3-pointers this season, sank just 8 of 29 from 3-point range against tournament overall top seed Duke on Friday, March 22, at Colonial Life Arena. That percentage of 27.6 — boosted by a flurry of late made shots by second-half backups — was one of the reasons NDSU fell 85-62 to the Blue Devils.

There were other reasons, for sure, most notably Duke All-American forward Zion Williamson. But if the Bison were going to have a chance against the loaded Blue Devils, they were going to have to continue their season-long trend of making 3-pointers. They couldn't do it from the start.

"That's Duke. Their length and athleticism is something we don't see. You have to experience those things," Bison head coach Dave Richman said. "They have the ability with their length and athleticism to speed you up and that's what happened here."

The Bison missed their first two 3-pointers before junior guard Vinnie Shahid hit one 1 minute, 43 seconds into the game. He followed that with another 30 seconds later and the Bison looked like they were settling into their routine of hot-shooting from long distance. Shahid's second make gave them a 6-5 lead.

But NDSU didn't make another 3-pointer for the rest of the half, going 0-for-10 over that stretch, and ended the first 20 minutes 2-for-14 (13 percent). Remarkably, NDSU trailed just 31-27 at halftime.

"They just were falling. They have a lot of length and athleticism and you have to prepare for that and shoot your shot," Bison junior Tyson Ward said. "You can't be overthinking things and I think that's kind of what happened. We overthought things. Overthinking affected our shots a little bit."

NDSU missed its first 3-point shot of the second half before Shahid nailed one with 17:17 left in the game to pull the Bison within 40-30.

By that time, Williamson and his Blue Devils teammates had taken control of the game.

NDSU had made 324 3-point shots going into the game, surpassing the previous record of 294 set last season. The Bison were averaging 9.5 made 3-pointers per game. and shot 38.2 percent on the year.

NDSU's season-low for 3-point percentage also came against a top-ranked opponent. The Bison made only 4 of 27 attempts against Gonzaga on Nov. 26 when the Bulldogs were ranked No. 1. Gonzaga won 102-60.

Shahid finished 3 of 7 on 3-pointers to lead the Bison. Reserve guard Jordan Horn made three in the second half when the game was out of reach. Freshman reserve Jarius Cook also added a late 3-pointer.

Notably absent was junior Jared Samuelson, the Bison's best 3-point shooter. Samuelson went into the game having made a team-high 38 3-pointers, shooting a team-high percentage of 48.7. Samuelson didn't make a 3-pointer against Duke and only attempted one. Other usually reliable shooters like Rocky Kreuser and reserve Tyree Eady were also blanked.

"They had to work for their shots," Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "The thing that they did when they missed, in the first half, was they got their rebounds. We were not defensive rebounding. They are a really good team. I watched six of their games. I told my guys, 'They don't beat themselves.' They play solid, really good basketball. Each kid has confidence in their role. They are a very well well-coached team. I'm very impressed by them."