Bison victorious over Leathernecks, advance to first championship since 2016

North Dakota State guard Sam Griesel has a season-best 20 points to give NDSU the upper hand against Western Illinois to advance to the championship game.
North Dakota State guard Sam Griesel has a season-best 20 points to give NDSU the upper hand against Western Illinois to advance to the championship game.

Press Conference: (4) North Dakota State | (8) Western Illinois

The Basics
Score: No. 4 North Dakota State 76, No. 8 Western Illinois 73
Records: North Dakota State (17-15), Western Illinois (10-21)
Location: Denny Sanford PREMIER Center - Sioux Falls, S.D.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Two days after posting the biggest upset in Summit League Tournament history, No. 8 seed Western Illinois almost carried their magic into the tournament finals. Almost.

The Fighting Leathernecks got two looks to tie at the end of regulation, but both missed their mark, and No. 4 seed North Dakota State hung on for the hard-fought, 76-73 win to advance to the finals on Tuesday night against either No. 2 seed Omaha or No. 3 seed Purdue Fort Wayne at 8:30 p.m.

NDSU used a series of mini-runs to build an early lead, going 5-0, 6-0 twice and 7-0 over the first 12 minutes to go up 34-19 with 8:15 remaining in the first half.

Western Illinois pieced together a couple of 4-0 and 5-0 spurts to hang around for the entire half, and cut it to 46-40 on a Kobe Webster 3-pointer with 39 seconds left, only to see Vinnie Shahid answer at the buzzer to give the Bison a 49-40 lead at the break.

The Bison scored the first four points of the second half to push the lead back into double figures, but the Leathernecks battled back a few minutes later, and turned an 8-0 run into a 12-2 run that cut the Bison lead to 59-58 with 13:16 remaining.

NDSU snapped the run with a Tyree Eady triple, but the Leathernecks kept grinding, and took their first lead since the first two minutes of the game on a C.J. Duff 3-pointer that put them up 67-65 with 8:24 on the clock, a lead that lasted all of 23 seconds, as a Cameron Hunter 3-pointer on the other end sparked a 7-0 NDSU run that ended with the Bison up 72-67 with 6:11 left.

The Leathernecks didn't give up though, and trimmed the lead down to three with the ball and the shot clock turned off, but could either of their two attempts forcing overtime to fall.

Sam Griesel led a trio of Bison in double figures with a career-high 20 points. Shahid added 14 and Deng Geu 11 points off the bench in the win.

Three Leathernecks also scored in double figures, led by Webster and his game-high 24, with Ben Pyle adding 14 and Brandon Gilbeck 11 each in points and rebounds for the game's only double-double, and his second of the tournament.

Turning Point

  • Trailing 67-65 after a C.J. Duff 3-pointer gave WIU its first lead since early in the first half, Cameron Hunter answered right back with a triple of his own, sparking a 7-0 Bison run. They never trailed again.  

Inside the Box Score

  • Webster scored at least 20 points for the 10th time this season, the Leathernecks fall to 3-7 in those games
  • Webster ends his sophomore season with 972 career points
  • Griesel's 20 points topped his previous career-high of 12, set against Western Illinois on Jan. 10, 2019
  • Gilbeck's seventh double-double of the season gives him 14 for his career
  • The NDSU bench outscored the WIU bench, 31-10
  • WIU scored 16-second chance points off of nine offensive rebounds, while NDSU scored 6 points off of four offensive rebounds

News & Notes

  • North Dakota State improves to 15-7 in tournament play, with a 6-1 mark in the semifinals and a 2-0 record as a No. 4 seed
  • Western Illinois falls to 15-30 in tournament play, with a 5-5 mark in the semifinals and a 1-9 record as a No. 8 seed
  • NDSU played in the tournament semifinals in six of the last seven seasons, posting a 5-1 record in those games
  • The Bison's lone loss in the semifinals came last year as a No. 5 seed to No. 1 seed, and eventual tournament champion, South Dakota State
  • WIU returned to the semifinals for the first time since 2013, when the No. 2 seed Leathernecks fell to No. 3 seed NDSU, 55-48
  • WIU's last win in the semifinals came in 2012 as a No. 4 seed, when it topped No. 1 seed Oral Roberts, 54-53

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2018-19 Basketball Media Day
October 19, 2018 2018-19 Basketball Media Day