In a game decided by a failed three-point attempt, SDSU defeated the North Dakota State University Bison, 67-65.
Free rabbit-ear balloon hats were given away before the game started. Many students arrived more than an hour before tip-off and rang their cowbells and yelled at the Bison during warm-ups. Many students had already stood for an hour before the game started.
Once the game started, the crowd never let up. The NDSU squad noticed intensity of the fans.
“They got a great crowd,” said Bison guard Ben Woodside.
The game started off well for the Jacks. Ben Beran grabbed a rebound and dribbled down the court, finishing with a thunderous dunk that excited the crowd of more than 4,000.
The two teams battled each other evenly for the first seven minutes of the game. With 12 minutes and 56 seconds remaining in the first half, NDSU went on a 14-0 run to build an 11-point lead. The Jacks did not score for almost six minutes during the run.
The Jacks clamped down their defense and held the Bison scoreless for seven minutes, while going on a 12-0 run to recapture the lead. NDSU responded and went into halftime leading 34-31.
The ‘Rabbits started out the second half strong, outscoring the Bison 16-5 during the first seven minutes. SDSU took the lead for good on a shot by Matt Cadwell with 16 minutes and 47 seconds left to go in the game. Cadwell led the Jacks in scoring with 16 points.
The Bison rallied, getting as close as one point down, but could never overtake or even tie the Jacks.
The Jacks were forced to play much of the second half without their starting big-men, Michael Loney and Beran. After scoring four straight points, Loney picked up his fourth foul with more than 13 minutes left to play. Beran received his fourth with just less than 13 minutes left. The two players were the scoring leaders for the Jacks when they sat down, forcing football players Chris Wagner and Mike Steffen into action. Wagner played 14 minutes and Steffen saw 13 minutes of playing time. At a postgame press conference, Coach Nagy said he does not consider them football players anymore, but sees them as basketball players until the end of the season.
With about six-and-a-half minutes remaining, Beran and Loney re-entered the game. However, neither player was able to finish the game. Beran fouled out with five minutes and 49 seconds left and Loney fouled out with three minutes and four seconds remaining. Beran finished with 15 points and four rebounds, while Loney scored 14 and grabbed five boards. Steffen and Wagner finished the game for the Jacks.
Without Loney and Beran on the floor, the Jacks needed scoring from other players. Beran, Cadwell, Loney and Andy Kleinjan combined to score the first 46 points for the Jacks.
MacKenzie Casey and Jose Frias stepped up and played pivotal roles down the stretch. Casey scored seven points while Frias had six, including a free throw with 13 seconds left to give the Jacks a two-point lead. Frias led the team with six rebounds.
The Bison had an opportunity to win the game on a last-second shot. With time winding down, Brett Winkelman shot a three-pointer from the corner. The shot missed and Wagner muscled down the rebound to secure the victory for the Jacks.
“It was a heck of a rebound,” said Nagy.
The crowd went nuts with excitement when the horn sounded and the Jacks were victorious. The Jacks gathered at half court, and clapped and pointed toward the student section, showing their appreciation to the fans.
Coach Nagy spoke to the crowd after the game. He said, “Thank you very much for sticking with us. Thank you, students.”
The last-second shot by Winkelman made both players and fans nervous.
“I was hoping it wasn’t going in. I had some butterflies in my stomach,” said Cadwell. “It was just some relief (that the shot missed).”