There is a saying in Summit League circles that says don’t bet against North Dakota State Head Coach Dave Richman in March. This is the 5th straight season that North Dakota State finds itself in the Summit League Championship Game. Yet the Bison are looking to break a little bit of a drought in that game. 3 years ago circumstances outside their control prevented them from the NCAA tournament as Covid canceled the tournament. However, North Dakota State lost in the championship game each of the last two seasons. To Oral Roberts 2 years ago and South Dakota State last year. The Bison got a bit of payback against South Dakota State in the semi-final and looks for the same against Oral Roberts in the championship.
So onto the game. The Bison jumped on South Dakota State at the jump and started with a 21-6 lead. The Jackrabbits battled back to take a lead and led 29-27 with 4 minutes left in the first half. The crowd of 7,700 mostly South Dakota State fans started getting behind their team, but North Dakota State made a push to end the half up 40-34. The second half was dominated by North Dakota State as their shooters were hitting shots and they dominated the Jackrabbits on the glass. Star Forward Grant Nelson finished with 22 rebounds and South Dakota State as a team had 24 rebounds. North Dakota State built the lead to as large as 21 on their way to a 79-69 victory.
Grant Nelson led the Bison with a rare 20/20 game, with 20 points and 22 rebounds, Boden Skunberg was North Dakota State’s leading scorer with 24 points. The concern all season has been the young Bison guards and Damari Wheeler-Thomas was the young guard that stepped up in the semi-finals with 17 points, 7 assists, and 2 steals. South Dakota State was led by Alex Arians with 20, Matt Mims with 19, and Zeke Mayo with 18.
All eyes turn to the championship game and Oral Roberts chase for perfection. Last year the only other team to finish the league perfect, South Dakota State, ended North Dakota State’s season in the championship game. The Bison are trying to change that outcome this time. As has become the norm the Bison are playing their best basketball and March and the version that won in the semi-final may be the toughest test Oral Roberts has faced in the league this season.