North Dakota State came into this season needing to replace a veteran backcourt with a bunch of players who had never played a division one basketball game. There were a lot of bumps in the road along the way as the young backcourt navigated the tricky waters that are division 1 basketball. There were even times in the quarterfinal matchup that showed this backcourt is still a work in progress. Then in the last two minutes, one of those baby Bison stepped up, big time.
Tajavis Miller, had himself a last two minutes. The freshmen guard out of Lubbock Texas scored 5 late points and added what ended up being the game-saving block. Let’s go through Miller’s last two minutes. First with 2:17 remaining and his team down 3, Miller used a pass fake to lose his defender and buried a 3-point shot to tie the ball game. Then after a critical South Dakota turnover, Miller drove and shot a little floater over Tasos Kamateros that gave the Bison a lead they would never relinquish. Miller’s heroic’s weren’t done there though. South Dakota’s Damani Hayes, slipped a screen and had what looked like would be a dunk to give South Dakota the lead. Miller met Hayes at the rim and blocked the dunk. All this ended with a North Dakota State 70-68 win.
There was controversy on the late-game block on whether a foul should have been called. My initial reaction live was there should have been a foul call. After watching a few times there was some contact, however, I honestly think the call would have gone either way. If you are a Coyote fan you likely are convinced one should have been called and a Bison fan likely thinks the opposite.
Grant Nelson led the Bison with 23 points and 11 rebounds. Boden Skunberg added 17 and Miller 12 all in the second half. South Dakota was led by AJ Plitzuweit with 17, followed by Kruz Perrot-Hunt with 16, and Tasos Kamateros with 11.
For the Coyotes all eyes turn to what the roster looks like next year. It was unique during a coaching change that most of the core returned this season for South Dakota. However, there are whispers that won’t be the same going into next year. We know Damani Hayes and Mason Archambault will not be back as they are out of eligibility. The loss of those two players will be felt both on and off the court for the Coyotes. Head Coach Eric Peterson said as much when talking about Hayes and Archambault, Peterson said: “they are about the right stuff every single day”. It really comes down to the other 3 starters, Plitzuweit, Perrot-Hunt, and Kamateros, all of whom have eligibility but were brought in by another staff. Peterson didn’t hint towards the future of those three players, saying “we’ll see on those other three guys”. So the waiting game in Vermillion starts now.