FARGO - North Dakota State's men's basketball team was again in position to topple another top-tier Summit League men's basketball team at home, but the Bison couldn't finish.
NDSU didn't make a field goal in the final five-plus minutes Saturday, Feb. 23, as Nebraska-Omaha rallied for a 58-50 victory before 2,177 fans at Scheels Center at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
"We didn't play with any effort," said Bison junior Vinnie Shahid, who had 13 points and five rebounds. "We didn't cut hard. We were forced to take bad shots at the end of the shot clock. We just didn't play hard the last five minutes period, defensively and offensively."
The Bison (14-14, 8-6 Summit) have lost two consecutive games, including a 78-77 home loss at the buzzer against rival South Dakota State the previous Saturday. UNO and SDSU are battling for the top seed in the conference. NDSU is fourth in the league with two regular-season games remaining on its schedule.
"That last little hurdle for us is to get over these top-tier teams and to win," Bison head coach David Richman said. "We've got our hands full the next two."
The Bison had a 10-point lead against UNO (18-9, 12-2) with less than 12 minutes remaining. However, NDSU went cold from the field from there, making only one shot from the field in the final 11 minutes.
"We played with no effort, no energy, that's on us," said Bison junior Jared Samuelson, who had 11 points. "It's on all of us."
The Bison took a 48-46 lead after Shahid sank a step-back 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 21 seconds to play in the second half. The Mavericks countered by scoring 12 of the next 14 points to close out the game.
Seniors Mitch Hahn and Zack Jackson keyed that game-deciding UNO run with five points each during that stretch. Jackson sank a corner 3-pointer that gave the Mavericks a 49-48 lead with 4:16 to play. Hahn added a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 52-48 with 1:42 remaining. Hahn then hit two foul shots for a 54-48 lead with 42 seconds to go.
The Mavericks, who have won six games in a row, were 6 of 6 from the foul line in the game's final minute.
"They've kind of done what they've been doing for the last four or five games," Richman said. "This is a learning experience for us. That being said, we've got to continue to grow. And that grow is playing with a little bit more spirit, a little bit more joy, a little bit more emotion. Some of the things that we had in the past, I didn't see that here this afternoon."
Tyson Ward scored NDSU's only points in the final five minutes. He made 2 of 3 free throws to slice the UNO lead to 54-50 with 27 seconds remaining. The Bison had won five in a row prior to their current two-game losing streak.
The Bison shot 27 percent (9 of 33) from 3-point range. Richman said his team took too many attempts from beyond the arc. NDSU attempted seven free throws.
"I thought we did a lot of settling today. We only got the the free-throw line and shot seven free throws," Richman said. "Going back to one of my mentors, the aggressor always wins and we needed to be downhill a little more."
The Bison, who have no seniors on the roster, have two road games to close out the regular season against South Dakota and Purdue Fort Wayne.
"There's no time like the present," Richman said. "We need to make sure that we are crushing these moments."
The Bison used a 13-2 run to build a double-digit lead in the first half. Shahid, Cameron Hunter and Tryee Eady each drained 3-pointers during that stretch. Deng Geu capped the rally with a basket that gave NDSU a 20-8 lead with 10:17 to play until halftime.
UNO scored the final four points in the first half to cut the Bison lead to 28-20 at halftime. NDSU shot 42 percent (11 of 26) from the floor in the first half, while the Mavericks shot 28 percent (9 of 32) from the field in the opening 20 minutes. Shahid led the Bison with nine points in the first half on three 3-pointers.
In contrast, the Bison shot 27 percent (7 of 26) from the floor in the second half. Richman said while there are things his team can build off from being in position to beat SDSU and UNO in the past two games, his team needs to learn to finish against the top teams.
"You can trick yourself really quick into thinking, 'Oh, we're right there,'" Richman said. "If you're not going to do the little things, if you're not going to pick up trash, if you're not going to eat crumbs ... we're never going to get over that proverbial hump."
UNO (18-9, 12-2 Summit): Pile 6-12 0-4 12, Hahn 1-6 2-2 5, Gibson 3-7 0-0 8, Robinson 5-12 2-2 15, Jackson 6-16 3-4 16, Akinwole 0-3 2-2 2, Tut 0-0 0-0 0, Barney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-56 9-14 58.
NDSU (14-14, 8-6): Griesel 2-5 0-0 4, Kreuser 0-6 2-2 2, Shahid 4-9 1-2 13, Samuelson 4-10 0-0 11, Ward 1-8 2-3 4, Eady 1-2 0-0 3, Quayle 0-0 0-0 0, Hunter 1-2 0-0 3, Geu 5-10 0-0 10. Totals 18-52 5-7 50.
Half: NDSU 28, UNO 20. 3-point goals: UNO 7-23 (Hahn 1-4, Gibson 2-6, Robinson 3-6, Jackson 1-7), NDSU 9-33 (Griesel 0-2, Kreuser 0-6, Shahid 4-7, Samuelson 3-8, Ward 0-4, Eady 1-2, Hunter 1-1, Geu 0-3). Total fouls: UNO 6, NDSU 14. Rebounds: UNO 38 (Pile 13), NDSU 32 (Geu 6). Assists: UNO 10 (Robinson 6), NDSU 5 (Griesel 2). Turnovers: UNO 6 (Jackson 3), NDSU 7 (Shahid 2). A-2,177.