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Summit buzzsaw: Hot ORU blasts Bison men for league title

Oral Roberts took a 31-point halftime lead in an easy championship game victory on Tuesday.

The 2023 Men’s Summit League Basketball Championship
North Dakota State Bison Andrew Morgan, left, and Josh Streit watch in disappointment against the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles in the Summit League men's basketball championship Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Denny Sanford Premier Center and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Dave Eggen/Inertia

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — North Dakota State didn’t run out of gas Tuesday night in the Summit League tournament championship game. The Bison forgot to fill up, left driving a beat-up pickup against a sports car known as Oral Roberts.

It was over early at the Denny Sanford Premier Center, a resounding thud for the Bison after two exhilarating victories to reach the title game. The Golden Eagles threw an overwhelming first half at the Bison and went on to take a 92-58 men’s basketball win to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The first 20 minutes were a nightmare for the Bison, who shot 27% and watched ORU hit nine 3-point field goals for a 51-20 halftime lead. The hop in the step that was there for the quarterfinal win over South Dakota and semifinal victory against South Dakota State was noticeably absent.

“They just punched us in the face and we weren’t ready for it,” said Bison guard Boden Skunberg.

The Golden Eagles, 30-4, came in with a few streaks to maintain, like the nation’s longest winning streak at 16 games and an unbeaten mark against Summit competition at 22-0. They had the league’s all-time leading scorer in guard Max Abmas to throw at NDSU, amongst a talented group of teammates.


The Bison weren’t without their laurels, making their fifth straight tournament title appearance and 10th overall since becoming postseason eligible in 2009 following a Division I transition from Division II. But they left Sioux Falls with the third straight year being one step away from the Big Dance.

“We’re competitors and all we want to do is win,” Skunberg said. “It hurts a lot. It sucks. Nothing you can do now except get back to work. We trust the process and next season starts now for us.”

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NDSU was bidding to become the first No. 3 seed to win the tournament since former member Eastern Illinois did it in 1985 when the league was known as the Association of Mid-Continent Universities and later the Mid-Continent Conference.

Trouble came early. The Golden Eagles sank three 3-pointers and, combined with NDSU’s lethargic offensive play, took an 18-3 lead. ORU was 6 of 11 from downtown, getting 3s from four different players and it was 26-9 almost halfway through the first half.

"We came out with the right energy," Abmas said, "and kept the energy throughout the whole game. I thought we did a good job of that."

Later, nine straight capped by Deshang Weaver’s 3-pointer made it 35-11 with 7:32 left in the first half. By the time the first half carnage ended, the Golden Eagles had a 51-20 halftime lead.

“You saw a hungry group, a mature group,” said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. “They made shots and they also beat us to some loose balls. I’m not going to backpedal on anything I said the last two nights, I’m really proud of the growth this group has made but we ran into a really mature hungry group today.”

The last time these teams played in a title game, 2021, it had a similar look with ORU taking a 45-20 halftime lead. The Bison had a furious second half rally in that only to fall 75-72. This one was too big of a hole.


"We really warned our kids at halftime," said ORU head coach Paul Mills. "I know we're up 31 but if we don't stretch this thing, this game can be a game really, really quick. I just thought they ran out of gas."

ORU expanded the lead to 33 points in the first five minutes of the second half. Weaver and Patrick Mwamba, two backup forwards, combined for six 3-point field goals at that point. Mwamba had 11 3-pointers all season heading into Tuesday, but erupted for four against NDSU.

“He’s a good player but that’s kind of how the night was,” Skunberg said.

The Golden Eagles finished 13 of 38 from 3-point range while the Bison struggled at 2 of 12.

NDSU didn’t get consecutive baskets until a pair of Andrew Morgan jumpers halfway through the second half.

The Bison finished 16-17 after winning six of seven heading into the title game. Leading scorer Grant Nelson, who led the way in the late-season surge, had the attention of the Golden Eagles and finished with nine points and five rebounds after 24 points and 22 rebounds against the Jackrabbits a night earlier.

“He's such a unique player that can score in a variety of ways," Mills said. "I don't know if it's anything that we did, I think it's playing three games in three days. It's tough on anybody."

Skunberg, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Nelson, led the Bison with 18 points.


NDSU (16-17): Nelson 3-8 3-4 9, Morgan 3-9 7-10 13, Miller 0-3 0-0 0, Wheeler-Thomas 3-10 4-4 10, Skunberg 6-11 4-6 18, White 0-5 0-0 0, Streit 2-3 0-0 4, Waddles 1-7 0-3 2, Hastreiter 0-2 0-0 0, Sletten 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 19-59 18-24 58.

ORU (30-4): Vanover 3-8 4-4 10, Thompson 2-2 0-0 4, Abmas 7-14 7-8 24, McBride 2-5 2-2 8, Jurgens 2-8 0-0 5, Mwamba 7-14 2-3 20, Weaver 4-6 0-0 10, Phipps 1-1 0-0 3, Williams 1-1 0-0 2, Clover III 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 30-62 19-21 92.

Halftime: ORU 51, NDSU 20. Total fouls: NDSU 16, ORU 17. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: NDSU 33 (Nelson 5); ORU 39 (Vanover 10). 3-point goals: NDSU 2-13 (Nelson 0-1, Skunberg 2-2, Wheeler-Thomas 0-1, White 0-4, Waddles 0-3, Hastreiter 0-2); ORU 13-38 (Vanover 0-4, Abmas 3-8, McBride 2-4, Jurgens 1-6, Mwamba 4-10, Weaver 2-4, Phipps 0-1, Clover III 0-1). Assists: NDSU 7 (Morgan 2); ORU 20 (Abmas 11). Turnovers: NDSU 12 (three with 2); ORU 11 (Abmas 3). A–5,011.

The 2023 Summit League Basketball Championship
Carlos Jurgens (11) of the Oral Roberts Golden Eagles fights for control of the ball against the North Dakota State Bison in the Summit League men's basketball championship Tuesday, March 7, 2023, at the Denny Sanford Premier Center and Sioux Falls, S.D.
Richard Carlson/Inertia
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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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