Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

McFeely: Big crowd goes home disappointed, but maybe entertained, by Bison loss

First-place Oral Roberts looked unstoppable with Max Abmas and a talented supporting cast leading the way on Thursday.

012023.S.FF.BisonM.Abmas
Oral Roberts’ Max Abmas cheers during their men's basketball game against North Dakota State on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
We are part of The Trust Project.

FARGO — So this is what a big crowd looks like at the Scheels Center. This is what it sounds like. This is what it feels like.

It's been awhile. Welcome back.

Bravo to the basketball fans of Fargo-Moorhead. They turned out for the game between the first- and second-place teams in the Summit League, filling 3,265 seats and bringing a vibe to the arena usually reserved for games against much-disliked South Dakota State.

They went home sorely disappointed, but it was the thought that counts.

The first half was good, right? At least that's what people walking out of the arena were saying.

ADVERTISEMENT

Now about that second half ...

Final score: Oral Roberts 92, NDSU 69.

Oral Roberts is good, man. Too good. Like, wow, good.

012023.S.FF.BisonM.Vanover
Oral Roberts' Connor Vanover slaps away a shot from North Dakota State's Grant Nelson during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

A pick-and-roll lob dunk from Carlos Jurgens to DeShang Weaver in the second half was NBA highlight stuff.

Later, sharpshooting guard Max Abmas passed up an open transition 3-pointer from the top of the key to pass to Jurgens on the wing, who passed up an open 3-pointer to pass to Weaver, who drilled an open 3-pointer from the corner.

"Just passing up a good shot for a great shot," Abmas said after the game, smiling.

Just good stuff.

This looks like the ORU of a couple of years ago, with some different characters. Abmas can still shoot and facilitate. The 7-foot-5 transfer Conner Vanover can shoot, move and alter shots. So many options with others, too. Haven't Jurgens, Weaver and Kareem Thompson played for, like, eight years? Must be a COVID thing.

ADVERTISEMENT

And the Golden Eagles turned up the defensive heat in the second half, holding the Bison to 16 points until garbage time in the final three minutes. Bison big man Grant Nelson had 19 points at halftime and finished with 21 for the game.

Scary part: Coach Paul Mills says his club isn't where it needs to be, despite being 7-0 in the conference and 16-4 overall.

"I don't think any coach ever likes where they're at. I think everybody's got to say, 'Man, we have things to do in order to get better.' And we've got a ton of work to do in a little time," Mills said.

012023.S.FF.BisonM.Jurgens
Oral Roberts’ Carlos Jürgens captures the ball from North Dakota State's Joshua Streit during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

We might mildly disagree.

The Summit League is the Golden Eagles' world and the other nine teams are scrapping for second place. The Bison are good and have the potential to get better, but Oral Roberts looks close to the finished product. A different class on this night.

Reminiscent, maybe, of the Oral Roberts team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament a couple of years ago.

"Yeah, I think it's a different team," Abmas said when the idea was raised. "This year we brought in some key guys, some transfers and so they all have experience playing at the highest level and so we know what it takes to win and we just have to go out and do that."

The first half was an amazing offensive performance from both teams. The crowd was loud and intense. Felt like the dumpy old Bison Sports Arena. NDSU made nine 3-pointers in the first 20 minutes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Turns out it was fool's gold.

The Golden Eagles were shooting 70% from the floor with 7:30 minutes left until halftime ... and losing 39-35.

Good news for the Bison was they were winning. Bad news was ORU was shooting 70%.

012023.S.FF.BisonM.Streit
North Dakota State's Joshua Streit goes up for two against Oral Roberts during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

Bison coach Dave Richman is a defensive guy. This might be why he looked like he'd just swallowed a healthy bite of lutefisk.

"It was an offensive shootout. They were on their way to 100 points and Grant was on his way to 40 by himself," Mills said. "We had to play a lot better in the second half. So if you like offense, I guess you were impressed but you're not going to win basketball games that way."

Once the Bison cooled off things got dicey for the home team.

Oral Roberts scored 52 points by halftime and led by five.

The Bison were in the game.

The Golden Eagles scored the first nine points of the second half as NDSU missed its first four shots.

The Bison were out of the game.

012023.S.FF.BisonM.WheelerThomas
North Dakota State's Damari Wheeler-Thomas slides under Oral Roberts’ Trey Phipps during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

Just like that. Blink of an eye.

They played hard the rest of the way, but couldn't climb back in it.

"First half we weren't really locked in on the defensive end. They had like 47 points. That's way too many," Abmas said. "Second half we came out with the right energy, came out with the right intensity and we held them a lot lower."

Abmas finished with a game-high 22 point and did it on only 14 shots. That kind of efficiency is tough to stop. Issac McBride had 21 points and Vanover finished with 15, including dunks and a couple of 3-pointers.

The Horace High School basketball team waited outside the Oral Roberts locker room after the game to take pictures with players, but especially Vanover. The Arkansas transfer is one-of-kind tall and thin as a rail. But he has skills.

"It's crazy, you know?" Abmas said. "He'll protect the rim and he can roll and dunk. The guy's got some tools. He can step out and shoot the ball, too, which makes him tougher to guard."

The same can be said for most of the Oral Roberts team. Tough to guard.

The best home crowd in awhile saw it and hopefully were entertained enough to come back for more.

012023.S.FF.BisonM.White2
North Dakota State's Jacari White drives against Oral Roberts during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
012023.S.FF.BisonM.Hastreiter
North Dakota State's Sam Hastreiter collides with Oral Roberts’ Carlos Jürgens during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
012023.S.FF.BisonM.White
North Dakota State's Jacari White passes against Oral Roberts during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
012023.S.FF.BisonM.Skunberg
North Dakota State's Boden Skunberg goes up for two against Oral Roberts during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.
012023.S.FF.BisonM.Nelson
North Dakota State's Grant Nelson goes up for two against Oral Roberts’ Connor Vanover during their men's basketball game Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/Forum Communications Co.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
What To Read Next
FARGO — Watching Damari Wheeler-Thomas bounce around the North Dakota State basketball practice court this week — cutting, jump-stopping, leaping, sprinting — you have to appreciate modern medical technology. Six months ago he had a metal rod inserted in his left leg. Today he's a key piece of the Bison's fortunes.
NDSU will add four players thru the transfer portal for the spring semester.
The Gophers have lost two in a row and six of seven overall.
Center Trey Thompson broke his nose at Northwestern but plans to play Wednesday vs. Rutgers