Bison men fight to the finish to knock off rival UND

FARGO — The old reliables were present on Saturday, Jan. 19, when North Dakota State hosted the University of North Dakota in men’s basketball. A festive crowd. The Fargo-Moorhead Acro Team at halftime. A recognition of a Bison national football title. And a fight to the finish.
The Bison held on in the final 12 seconds to take a 67-65 win before 4,232 fans at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. NDSU remained almost invincible at home with its eighth win in nine games in Fargo. The Bison leveled their Summit League record at 3-3 and are 9-11 overall.
They found two money players in the second half. Junior forward Deng Geu made key plays down the stretch and 6-foot-6 freshman forward Sam Griesel finished with 9 points and 11 rebounds in his first taste of the rivalry.
“Going into this game, I heard a lot of stories of the UND and NDSU games,” Griesel said. “Obviously I knew it was going to be pretty crazy. I was impressed by the crowd and how loud they were and that really helped us.”
It was the first game between the two rivals as conference foes since 2004, when both were members of the Division II North Central Conference. Not much separated the two on the scoreboard all game.
“Rivalry game, it’s what we want, right?” said UND head coach Brian Jones. “Heated. Not always pretty. Both teams gritty and fighting and clawing for everything. Both teams didn’t exactly shoot it well, but we just competed. That’s what you want from these games.”
Geu’s inside hoop with 1:32 left gave the Bison a 67-65 lead. After a defensive stop, Geu’s hustle on the offensive boards after a Cameron Hunter miss kept the ball in NDSU’s hands with 43 seconds left.
“Play of the game,” Bison head coach Dave Richman said of Geu’s effort. “As good as he was at scoring (Geu led NDSU with 15 points), when you’re playing a conference game, it’s not going to come down to something fancy. It’s an energy-effort thing.”
NDSU, however, turned it over with 22 seconds remaining. UND took time out 10 seconds later to set up its attempt to tie, or win it with a trey.
The plan, Jones said, was for guard Marlon Stewart to take the ball to the hole, either score or draw a foul. With the rangy Griesel guarding him, however, Stewart opted for a pull-up 3-point shot with six seconds left. It hit the rim and bounced into teammate Conner Avants’ hands. His put-back attempt was off.
“The place was rockin, which helped a lot,” Griesel said. “In those moments, it’s important to stay poised and stay with what got you there.”
The Bison victory ended five straight games in the series in which the visiting team won. The loss dropped UND to 8-12 overall and 2-5 in the Summit. Stewart had 14 points to lead the Hawks, but he was also 3 of 16 from the field.
NDSU finished with one of its better defensive efforts of the season holding UND to 38 percent field goal shooting.
“One of our weaknesses has been finishing games out,” Geu said.
Each team took turns taking control in the first half. The Hawks sprinted to a 15-3 lead. NDSU responded in the last 10 minutes to take a 35-34 halftime lead.
It remained tight for the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Hawks had narrow leads starting from that point until Geu tied it with a dunk at 63-63 with 4:20 remaining.
Griesel’s hoop tied it at 65 with 3:06 left. NDSU held the Fighting Hawks scoreless from that point.
“Down the stretch, we had to make shots and make plays and we failed to do that,” said UND guard Billy Brown.