North Dakota State (19-6) at Nebraska Omaha (15-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 15, 5:07 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ralston Arena (4,691) -- Omaha, Nebraska. Television: FCS, Midco. Home Record: NDSU 9-1, Omaha 9-2. Away Record: NDSU 9-5, Omaha 6-8. Neutral Record: NDSU 1-0, Omaha 0-0. Conference Record: NDSU 8-2, Omaha 4-5. Series Record: North Dakota State, 42-28.
GAME NOTES: The North Dakota State Bison will try to win their 20th game of the season on Saturday afternoon when they venture to Ralston Arena for a Summit League matchup with the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks.
NDSU, which has posted two 20-win seasons in head coach Saul Phillip's previous six years, has crept closer to that number with three straight wins, pulling to 19-6 following a 56-52 triumph at Western Illinois on Thursday. At 8-2 in conference action, the Bison sit alone in first place in the Summit League, a game up on both IUPU-Fort Wayne and South Dakota State.
Omaha has had a strong season in its own right at 15-10, including 9-2 on its home floor, although it has slipped up during Summit League play at just 4-5. The Mavericks had been winners of three straight prior to Thursday's home contest with South Dakota State, which it lost by a convincing 77-60 margin.
NDSU made easy work of Omaha at home back on Jan. 16, 91-66, to extend its lead in the all-time series to 42-28
The Bison were wrapped up in a tight, low-scoring battle with WIU earlier in the week, but while they saw their 10-point second-half advantage dwindle to just one on several occasions down the stretch, they never gave up the lead and held on for the impressive four-point road win. They shot only 40 percent from the field, including 3-of-16 from 3-point range, but helped make up for it with a 17-of-19 showing at the free-throw line. Taylor Braun paced all scorers with 19 points, while Lawrence Alexander and Marshall Bjorklund poured in 14 and 12 points, respectively.
On the season, NDSU is the nation's second-best field goal shooting team at 50.5 percent on its way to 76.6 ppg, and it has also impressed on the defensive end of the floor by allowing just 67.2 ppg. Braun is the top scoring threat with 18.1 ppg and also has nearly twice as many assists (94) as turnover (49). Bjorklund (13.8 ppg) shoots an incredible 63.7 percent from the field, while Alexander (11.4 ppg) and TrayVonn Wright (10.8 ppg. 5.2 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers.
The Mavericks dug themselves a 10-point halftime hole in their most recent contest and never threatened the lead the rest of way en route to the 17-point loss. They shot a mere 31.7 percent from the field in the setback, including just 5-of-22 from 3-point range, while allowing SDSU to net 47 percent of its tries from the field. Mike Rostampour scored a team-high 15 points, Devin Patterson put up 13 points and CJ Carter had 12 points.
It was a rare performance for Omaha, which is usually a potent offensive squad with 80.7 ppg on 45.7 percent field goal shooting. Unfortunately its defense has been an issue all season long, yielding 73.9 ppg, although its excellent turnover margin (+3.5) has helped ease the pain a bit. Carter (13.6 ppg) and John Karhoff (13.4 ppg) are neck-and-neck for the team lead in scoring, with Carter adding a team-high in both assists (3.6 apg) and 3-pointers (40). Patterson (10.7 ppg), Justin Simmons (10.8 ppg), Marcus Tyus (8.6 ppg) and Rostampour (8.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg) are also regular contributors to the balanced attack.
Its last game not withstanding, Omaha has been outstanding on its home floor and should be able to give NDSU a run for its money. However, the Bison have been the Summit's best for a reason and will find a way to pull this one out down the stretch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 80, Nebraska Omaha 74
02/15 10:41:08 ET