Denver (16-14) vs. North Dakota State (23-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Monday, March 10, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Sioux Falls Arena (7,100) -- Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Television: Midco Sports Net, FCS. Home Record: Denver 9-4, NDSU 12-1. Away Record: Denver 5-8, NDSU 10-5. Neutral Record: Denver 2-2, NDSU 1-0. Conference Record: Denver 8-6, NDSU 12-2. Series Record: North Dakota State leads, 4-2.
GAME NOTES: North Dakota State tries to get back to the title game in the Summit League Tournament, as the Bison take on the Denver Pioneers in the semifinals of the 30th annual tourney at Sioux Falls Arena on Monday.
Last year NDSU, which is 5-4 in the tournament all-time and captured the crown in 2009, fell to South Dakota State in the championship, 73-67. The top seed in the event this time around produced 23 victories during the regular season, fourth-most in program history. The Bison were nearly perfect in the month of February, ripping off six straight wins after bowing to Denver (67-63) on Feb. 1.
North Dakota State closed out the regular season with seven consecutive victories and 12 in the last 13 outings overall.
As for the Pioneers, a team which is competing in their third different conference in as many years, they easily took care of the South Dakota Coyotes on Sunday evening by a score of 71-55, in the quarterfinals.
The teams split two regular-season matchups, the most recent of those taking place on March 1 in Fargo where the hosts pulled out a 78-68 victory. As a result, the Bison now lead the all-time series by a count of 4-2.
The winner of this game will be back in action tomorrow night in the championship versus the survivor of the South Dakota State/IUPU-Ft. Wayne meeting for the right to represent the Summit League in the NCAA Tournament.
Despite utilizing just two players off the bench, the Pioneers still had more than enough energy to take down South Dakota by double figures on Sunday evening. Brett Olson led the way with 20 points, shooting 4-of-7 behind the 3- point line as he handed out five assists, followed by Bryant Rucker and Jalen Love with 14 and 12 points, respectively. Cam Griffin contributed eight points and a team-best nine rebounds in an effort to make up for the woeful performance put on by Chris Udofia who missed both of his two field goal chances, made only 1-of-6 at the free-throw line and finished with a single point in 22 minutes of action before fouling out.
The Bison are the top shooting team in the nation at the moment, converting their field goal attempts at a 50.9 percent clip, thanks in large part to Marshall Bjorklund who is first in the country with his 63.9 percent accuracy. Bjorklund is second on the team in scoring with 13.6 ppg and while he is the best at what he does from the field overall, his accuracy at the free-throw line (.627) is questionable.
Taylor Braun, recently named the Summit League Player of the Year, leads all scorers with 18.0 ppg, connecting on 41.2 percent from 3-point range. Braun is a rarity in college basketball who not only leads his team in scoring, but also on the glass (5.5 rpg), in assists (111) and steals (48). Filling out the list of double-digit performers for NDSU are Lawrence Alexander and TrayVonn Wright with 11.3 and 11.2 ppg, respectively, as the squad generates 76.7 ppg and gives up only 66.2 ppg to the competition over the course of 29 outings.
If the Pioneers are going to go with a short bench again, they'll need Udofia to stick around a little longer and be much more of a factor if they hope to upend the Bison. Unfortunately for Denver, even if Udofia returns to form, NDSU still has too many weapons.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 74, Denver 62
03/10 10:33:26 ET