Denver (15-13) at North Dakota State (22-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 1, 8 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bison Sports Arena (6,000) -- Fargo, North Dakota. Television: NBC ND, ESPN3.com. Home Record: Denver 9-4, North Dakota State 11-1. Away Record: Denver 5-7, North Dakota State 10-5. Neutral Record: Denver 1-2, North Dakota State 1-0. Conference Record: Denver 8-5, North Dakota State 11-2. Series Record: North Dakota State leads, 3-2.
GAME NOTES: The North Dakota State Bison will try to close out the regular season on a high note by winning their seventh game in a row, but the Denver Pioneers stand in the way in a Summit League clash at the Bison Sports Arena.
Denver had a three-game win streak snapped on Thursday night by South Dakota State, 78-69, which put away Denver's shot at the second seed in the conference tournament. Denver is 8-5 in league play this season and will try to end things with a win.
North Dakota State has won six games in a row, and 11 of the team's last 12 overall dating back to Jan. 11. The Bison are coming off a lopsided victory in which they defeated South Dakota, 82-54. NSDU holds an 11-2 record in the conference, and has already wrapped up the top seed when tournament play begins.
The Bison hold a slim 3-2 edge in the all-time series with Denver. North Dakota State has won both games played in Fargo, but dropped the earlier contest to Denver, 67-63, back on Feb. 1.
South Dakota State had a very slim 29-27 edge over Denver at the end of the first half on Thursday, but the Pioneers couldn't stop the Jackrabbits from scoring at will in the second period, allowing SDSU to hit 60.9 percent of its shots from the floor. South Dakota State created some separation in the half for the win. Jalen Love led Denver with 18 points in the contest, adding three steals to his stat line. Marcus Byrd came off the bench to score 10 points for the Pioneers, who shot 56.7 percent in the second half but still came up short.
Brett Olson, who tallied nine points on Thursday before fouling out of the game, leads the Pioneers in scoring this season with a 14.5 ppg average. Olson is connecting on 47.6 percent of his shot attempts from the floor, and hits 92.6 percent of his free-throw tries. Chris Udofia is second behind Olson in scoring, netting 12.8 ppg with a team-high 44 steals and 68 blocked shots. Cam Griffin is the team's leading rebounder with 5.9 rpg, and Udofia adds a team- best 3.9 apg mark to his resume.
North Dakota State jumped way out ahead of South Dakota in the first half, leading 36-15 as the teams headed for the locker rooms. It didn't get any better for the Coyotes in the second frame, as the Bison extended their already gigantic lead by another seven points for the win. Taylor Braun notched a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds, adding six assists to his stat line. Mike Felt also tallied 15 points in the win, and TrayVonn Wright chipped in 14 points. Marshall Bjorklund rounded out the double-digit scorers for NDSU with 13 points in the contest.
Braun paces the Bison this season in the scoring category with a healthy 18 ppg on 49.2 percent shooting from the field. Braun sports a team-leading 5.4 rpg average and 108 assists on the year with 48 steals. Bjorklund is second with 13.7 ppg, and Lawrence Alexander and Wright each net 11.3 ppg for the Bison. Wright brings down 5.1 rpg and has a team-best 48 blocked shots. North Dakota State is averaging 76.7 ppg through 28 games played, and is giving up just 66.2 ppg to its opposition.
Although Denver found the formula for success in the Summit League this season, and got the better of North Dakota State in Colorado, the Bison are simply way too overpowering on both ends of the floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 82, Denver 71
03/01 11:55:38 ET