McFeely: Griesel and Bison ensure the basketball – not the shenanigans – is focused after win over Oral Roberts – InForum
SIOUX FALLS, SD — No shenanigans needed tonight. Sam Griesel and his North Dakota State teammates — primarily Griesel — made sure there was little Oral Roberts could get upset about.
If the officiating team of Tim Stewart, Lewis Garrison and Bryan Anslinger thought they were going to have their hands full as two rivals played in the Summit League men’s basketball tournament after getting into a post-game brawl the last time they played, they luckily got it wrong. The teams played a clean game, with little bite and no harsh tricks.
The post-game handshake went off without a hitch.
Instead, it was just a good old fashioned beating. NDSU 92, ORU 72 in the Summit League semi-finals. Golden Eagles coach Paul Mills, who sparked a game of shoving and shouting in February after a Bison win at Fargo by refusing to concede defeat despite a huge NDSU lead, waved the white flag with 2 :05 to play in the match by eliminating his starters.
NDSU coach Dave Richman was, shall we say, brusque when asked by a reporter if he had brought up the previous amusing affair with his team before the rematch.
“We’re here to play basketball. It’s behind us,” Richman barked.
End of quote. Next question.
The chapter on an unfortunate incident seems closed.
Instead, today’s story is that NDSU is back in tournament title play with a chance to go to another NCAA Tournament. The opponent will be the Bison’s other rival, South Dakota State, and the task will be more difficult. The Jackrabbits were great in dismantling South Dakota 83-60 early in Monday’s semifinal.
The championship match is set up to be a doozy.
The NDSU was terrific most of the time against the Golden Eagles, but it was senior point guard Sam Griesel who was the most formidable. He played like a man possessed from the first tap, scoring 26 points and adding nine rebounds and eight assists. And he didn’t play the 6:21 final because the Bisons were so far ahead.
Mills pointed to another statistic to underscore Griesel’s greatness. The leader had only one turnover.
“Eight assists and one turnover, that’s remarkable,” Mills said. “For a kid of this size with this strength – 26 points, eight assists, one turnover. He’s a hell of a player.”
The Bisons looked like the veteran, rested team that they are. They bombarded the Golden Eagles early on pushing the tempo and sending their two biggest starters, 6-foot-11 Grant Nelson and 6-foot-10 Rocky Kreuser, into the basket.
NDSU made its first eight shots. His first miss didn’t come until Kreuser’s short jumper was thrown in with 14:28 to go in the first half. By the time Griesel hit a pull jump shot in transition and followed with back-to-back layups, the Bison had a 19-point lead at 33-14 and the Golden Eagles were staggered.
Only the formidable Max Abmas kept Oral Roberts in the game with a dizzying lineup of 3-pointers, runners, scoops and floaters. The Golden Eagles got under six points in the latter part of the first half, but NDSU stretched it nine at halftime and staged another attack 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 astounding.
“The day off helps a lot and I think we saw that at the start of the game today,” Griesel said. “Just having fresh legs, being able to push the ball. The big thing we’ve been emphasizing is pushing the ball with the pass. When we have 6-11, 6-10 who can run like that, obviously that helps Lots of targets to find for us guards It’s pretty easy.
The position of ORU Elijah Lufile, 6-8 and 280 pounds, was as invisible as such a big man could be. He was a dominant force under the hoop in the quarterfinal against Western Illinois. After averaging 15 points and 14 rebounds over the last three games, Lufile went scoreless and had eight rebounds against the Bison. The size and athleticism of Nelson, Kreuser and 6-10 rookie Grant Morgan were too much.
A team that has struggled at times to beat inferior teams along the long run of the Summit League schedule has saved its best for the biggest moment. Richman and his club were great.
“We didn’t come in with the right energy from the jump. They really had the highest energy. You saw that on the first possession of the game. On the free throw, we didn’t block their miss” , Abmas said. . “They were locked in from the jump and we weren’t. It’s difficult to play from behind, especially in big games.”
The Bison made sure people were talking about basketball, not postgame nonsense, after that win over Oral Roberts.