Grant Nelson's career night propels Bison men over Fighting Hawks
The North Dakota State forward scored for 36 points in impressive performance against rival North Dakota on Friday.
FARGO — North Dakota State filled its student section in much the same manner as Bison forward Grant Nelson filled the hoop. Both were impressive Friday night at Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
Nelson was virtually unstoppable most of the night with a career-high 36 points and the Bison pulled away from the Fighting Hawks early in the second half to take a 91-75 men’s basketball victory before 3,867 fans. It ended a two-game losing streak for NDSU, which improved to 9-13 overall and 6-4 in the Summit League.
UND, 7-16, remained in the conference cellar at 1-9. The Hawks never could get a handle on the 6-foot-11 Nelson, who sliced and diced when he got the ball down low while adding a pair of 3-point field goals and 7 rebounds.
The exclamation points were a couple of dunks that included one of the highlight variety in the second half. NDSU swept the regular season series from UND.
“I know it means a lot for the fans, I’m from North Dakota and it gives us bragging rights,” said Nelson, from Devils Lake. “It’s more than just a Bison win.”
NDSU played without starting center Andrew Morgan, whose grandmother passed away this week. Morgan was coming off a career-high 29 points last weekend against Kansas City, but the Bison weathered his absence mainly with Nelson on offense and a quality start from backup center Joshua Streit, who did his job with 8 rebounds and 3 of 3 field goals.
“Just be myself, an energy guy,” Streit said. “Get the boards and do anything I can for the team. In my eyes, my role didn’t change.”
Both teams spent the first half trading impressive shooting spurts, with 10 straight by NDSU the biggest factor in a 53-46 halftime lead. It was almost an opposite feel of the first game these teams played when the Bison beat the Hawks 71-49.
For NDSU head coach Dave Richman, that half had visions of last week when the Bison were average at best defensively.
“I don’t know if we carried over anything we did this week,” he said. “When you shoot 60%, you score 53 and you’re only up seven? I know I’m crusty and old but that’s not going to carry over when it matters in late February and March. We have to be significantly better defensively. We have to be better at finishing possessions.”
They were better in the second half. Nelson had 24 of his points in the first half, although UND countered with four 3-point field goals from backup guard Matt Norman.
“Grant had a good game, he was a beast,” said UND guard Treysen Eaglestaff. “We couldn’t stop him tonight.”
Nelson finished with 13 of 20 field goal shooting and added a team-high 8 rebounds. Most of his scoring came via his height against the smaller UND post players.
“I took advantage of my height on their bigs,” he said. “They weren’t digging much in the post and if they did I found our 3-point shooters."
NDSU didn’t cool off, scoring the first eight points of the second half to take a 61-46 advantage. The intermission didn’t cool Nelson off, either, who had a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws in that stretch.
Two more Nelson buckets, a slam dunk and a shot in traffic, made it 70-53 with 14 minutes left in the game. UND never threatened after that.
“We made a couple of tweaks, but mainly it’s the urgency and the grit,” Richman said.
UND head coach Paul Sather thought Nelson took advantage of the absence of 6-10, 245-pound Morgan in one regard: it gave him more space to operate. UND chose to not double-team Nelson and keep NDSU’s other players from the 3-point open looks.
“When you space four guards out around Nelson, they’re a little bit different to guard,” Sather said. “Nelson did an awesome job of attacking us one-on-one, he finished a lot of tough finishes. He was making some of those look easy and they weren’t easy.”
Norman finished with 25 points to lead the Hawks, who had trouble finding consistent scoring from any of its starters.
“We just really struggled scoring in that second half,” Sather said.
UND (7-16, 1-9 Summit): Tsartsidze 6-16 0-0 14, Danielson 1-4 0-0 3, Omot 4-13 1-3 9, Trent 2-4 2-2 6, Eaglestaff 3-10 0-0 8, Norman 8-14 3-3 25, Levias 4-8 1-1 10, Mathews 0-1 0-0 0, Sueker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-70 7-9 75.NDSU (9-13, 6-4 Summit): Nelson 13-20 8-11 36, Streit 3-3 0-0 6, Wheeler-Thomas 3-6 2-2 9, White 2-6 0-0 4, Skunberg 7-14 2-2 17, Waddles 4-8 0-0 9, Miller 4-5 0-0 10, Yoder 0-1 0-0 0, Hastreiter 0-1 0-0 0, Sletten 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 36-65 12-15 91.Halftime: NDSU 53, UND 46. Total fouls: UND 12, NDSU 11. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: UND 29 (Omot 7); NDSU 43 (Streit 8). 3-point goals: UND 12-35 (Tsartsidze 2-7, Danielson 1-3, Trent 0-2, Omot 0-3, Eaglestaff 2-7, Norman 6-11, Levias 1-2); NDSU 7-22 (Nelson 2-5, Wheeler-Thomas 1-3, White 0-3, Skunberg 1-5, Waddles 1-3, Miller 2-2, Hastreiter 0-1). Assists: UND 10 (four with 2); NDSU 8 (Miller 3). Turnovers: UND 4 (four with 1); NDSU 4 (four with 1). A–3,867.