North Dakota State (21-8) at Nebraska Omaha (11-19)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 2, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ralston Arena (4,691) -- Omaha, Nebraska. Television: FCS, MidCo Sports Network. Home Record: NDSU 12-1, Nebraska Omaha 7-5. Away Record: NDSU 7-7, Nebraska Omaha 3-13. Neutral Record: NDSU 2-0, Nebraska Omaha 1-1. Conference Record: NDSU 11-4, Nebraska Omaha 6-9. Series Record: NDSU leads, 36-26.
GAMES NOTES: The North Dakota State Bison will try to hold onto the No. 3 seed in the upcoming Summit League Tournament when they visit the Nebraska Omaha Mavericks at Ralston Arena on Saturday.
The Bison are 11-4 in league action but can't catch South Dakota State (13-3) and Western Illinois (12-3) as this is the final game of the season for them. NDSU also sports an impressive 21-9 record overall which makes it one of two teams in the conference with at least 20 wins on the campaign. The Bison haven't been able to find a rhythm of late, trading wins and losses in their last six games.
This is also the regular-season finale for the Mavericks who are currently tied with IUPU-Fort Wayne for fifth in the conference standings. The Mavericks control their own destiny though as a win guarantees them the No. 5 seed though a Mastodon loss would also lead to that result regardless of this game's outcome. The Mavericks are a mediocre 7-5 at home this season as they close out this four-game homestand.
It wasn't much of a contest when these teams met all the way back in November. The Bison cruised to a 95-51 victory in Fargo to improve its all-time series lead to 36-26.
Both of North Dakota State's last two games were against non-conference foes with the most recent a 63-56 victory over Utah Valley. Controlling the boards was the key for the Bison who had a 37-29 edge in rebounds, while outscoring the Wolverines 13-0 in second-chance points.
Where North Dakota State has been most successful this season is on the defensive end of the floor. The Bison rank among the top 20 teams in the country in points allowed (55.3 pg), assists (10 apg) and opponent field-goal percentage (.385). They have also made a habit of cleaning the glass as they rank second in the Summit League in rebounds (34.3 pg). Leading scorer Taylor Braun (14.4 ppg) made his return after missing 10 straight games for the Bison against Utah Valley but was held scoreless in 18 minutes of play. Marshall Bjorklund (11.5 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Lawrence Alexander (10.8 ppg, 3.8 apg) held down the fort for the Bison with Braun out. Bjorklund is an extremely efficient scorer in the low post as he finishes on 66.7 percent of his attempts from the floor, which ranks third nationally.
Omaha was involved with the conference leading South Dakota State Jackrabbits on Thursday night. The Mavericks' defensive effort was lacking yet again as they allowed the Jackrabbits to shoot 57.8 percent from the floor en route to a 100-82 victory. The Mavericks were also on the short end of a massive 50-24 difference in rebounds.
The defensive end of the floor has consistently been a problem for Omaha. The Mavericks are allowing the most points per game in the country (82.6), while also ranking in the bottom 10 teams in the nation in opponent assists (16.1 pg) and field-goal percentage defense (.489). It's unfortunate considering that the Mavericks are actually a rather solid offensive team, scoring a respectable 71.9 points per game, while shooting the second best percentage from the floor (.469) among Summit League teams. Justin Simmons (16.4 ppg) is the leading scorer, ranking fourth in the conference. The 6-foot-3 guard poured in 29 points against South Dakota State for his third straight game of at least 20 points and 17th straight game in double figures. Aiding Simmons from the frontcourt is the only other double-figure scorer on the team in John Karhoff (12.1 ppg).
Even though Omaha is playing on its home floor in this contest, North Dakota State has been too good defensively for the Mavericks to score enough points to make up for their own defensive deficiencies.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 79, Nebraska Omaha 65
03/02 10:34:36 ET