McFeely: Griesel, Bison assure basketball — not shenanigans — is focus after this win over Oral Roberts – InForum

SIOUX FALLS, SD — No need for shenanigans on this night. Sam Griesel and his North Dakota State teammates — mostly Griesel — made sure there was little about which Oral Roberts could get worked up.

If the officiating crew of Tim Stewart, Lewis Garrison and Bryan Anslinger thought it was going to have its hands full as two rivals played in the Summit League men’s basketball tournament after having a postgame scuffle the last time they played, they were happily mistaken. The teams played a clean game, with little jawing and no rough stuff.

The postgame handshake went off without a hitch.

Instead, it was just a good old-fashioned beatdown. NDSU 92, ORU 72 in the Summit League Semifinals. Golden Eagles coach Paul Mills, who sparked a shoving and shouting match in February after a Bison victory in Fargo by refusing to concede defeat despite a huge NDSU lead, waved the white flag with 2:05 left in the game by taking out his starters.

NDSU coach Dave Richman was, shall we say, curt when a reporter asked whether he addressed the previous funny business with his team before the rematch.

“We’re here to play basketball. That’s behind us,” Richman barked.

end quote. Next question.

The chapter on a regrettable incident appears closed.

Instead, the story today is that NDSU is back in the tournament title game with a chance to go to another NCAA Division I tournament. The opponent will be the Bison’s other rival, South Dakota State, and the task with be tougher. The Jackrabbits were terrific in dismantling South Dakota 83-60 in the early semifinal Monday.

Oral Roberts forward Carlos Jurgens and North Dakota State forward Grant Nelson #4 of the North Dakota State Bison reach for a rebound Monday, March 7, during the Summit League men’s basketball tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD

Richard Carlson/Inertia

The championship game is set up to be a doozy.

NDSU was mostly terrific against the Golden Eagles, but it was senior point guard Sam Griesel who was most terrific. He played like a man possessed from the opening tap, scoring 26 points and adding nine rebounds and eight assists. And he didn’t play the final 6:21 because the Bison were so far ahead.

Mills pointed at one other statistic to highlight Griesel’s greatness. The point guard had just one turnover.

“Eight assists and one turnover is remarkable,” Mills said. “For a kid that size with that strength — 26 points, eight assists, one turnover. He’s a heck of a player.”

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North Dakota State’s Maleeck Harden-Hayes grabs a rebound against Oral Roberts’ Max Abmas on Monday, March 7, during the Summit League men’s basketball semifinals at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD

Dave Eggen/Inertia

The Bison looked like the veteran, rested team they are. They blitzed the Golden Eagles from the opening tip by pushing tempo and sending their two tallest starters, 6-foot-11 Grant Nelson and 6-10 Rocky Kreuser, to the basket.

NDSU made its first eight shots. Its first miss didn’t come until Kreuser’s short jumper rolled off with 14:28 left in the first half. By the time Griesel hit a pull-up jump shot in transition and followed with consecutive layups, the Bison had a 19-point lead at 33-14 and the Golden Eagles were staggered.

Only the terrific Max Abmas kept Oral Roberts in the game with a dizzying array of 3-pointers, runners, scoops and floaters. The Golden Eagles got within six points in the latter part of the first half, but NDSU stretched it nine at halftime and put together another onslaught early in the second half.

The Bison led by 30 points, 90-60, with 3:33 left in the game but the game was decided long before that. The ease with which they buried ORU was stunning.

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Oral Roberts forward DeShang Weaver (14) saves the ball from going out of bounds while North Dakota State guard Sam Griesel (5) looks on Monday, March 7, during the Summit League men’s basketball tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD

Dave Eggen/Inertia

“The day off helps a lot and I think we saw that at the beginning of the game today,” Griesel said. “Just having fresh legs, being able to push the ball. The big thing we’ve been harping on is pushing the ball with the pass. When we have 6-11, 6-10 who can run like that it obviously helps. Big targets for us guards to find. It makes it pretty easy.”

ORU post Elijah Lufile, 6-8 and 280 pounds, was as invisible as a man that big could be. He was a dominant force under the hoop in the quarterfinals against Western Illinois. After averaging 15 points and 14 rebounds over the last three games, Lufile didn’t score and had eight rebounds against the Bison. The size and athleticism of Nelson, Kreuser and backup 6-10 freshman Grant Morgan was too much.

A team that at times struggled to beat inferior teams over the long course of the Summit League schedule saved its best for the biggest moment. Richman and his club were terrific.

“We didn’t come in with the right energy from the jump. They really had the higher energy. You saw it on the first possession of the game. On the free throw we didn’t block out on their miss,” Abmas said . “They were locked in from the jump and we weren’t. It’s hard to play from behind, especially in big-time games.”

The Bison made sure people were talking about basketball, and not postgame tomfoolery, after this victory over Oral Roberts.

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North Dakota State forward Rocky Kreuser (34) is defended by Oral Roberts guard Max Abmas on Monday, March 7, during the Summit League men’s basketball tournament at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls, SD

Richard Carlson/Inertia

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