DAYTON, Ohio – The North Dakota men's basketball team had the chance to play against Duke, ranked first.
With their 78-74 win over North Carolina Central in the first four games of the Wednesday night NCAA Tournament at the University of Dayton Arena, the Bison qualify for Friday night's second round match against Duke, first and seeded, in Columbia, SC
Tyson Ward scored eight of his 23 points in the last four and a half minutes to help the Bison overcome a five-point deficit in the last five and a half minutes. The Bison also made 12 of 13 free throws in the last seven minutes and 18 seconds.
The Bison score 19-15 in South Carolina. It was a season in which the Bisons beat a 2-7 start and won the Summit League tournament as No. 4 seed to win their fourth trip to the NCAA tournament.
This is the second time NDSU has won an NCAA tournament match. The Bisons defeated Oklahoma in the 2014 tournament. They lost to Kansas in 2009 and Gonzaga in 2015.
The Bison, who led by 13 points early in the second period, was 66-61 behind by more than five minutes from the end. Bison, ranked ninth in the country with 77% of free throws, had 6 free throws out of 7, earned a 3-pointer from Sam Griesel and a Tyson Ward spinning basket to give the Bison a score 73-70 in the lead with 1h05 remaining.
The Bison built their biggest lead of the match, 49-36, with 16:06 to go. They opened the second half on a 9-2 run. But central North Carolina reacted quickly with a 9-0 record in less than three minutes to bring the lead to 49-45.
While the Bison had a 56-50 lead, North Carolina Central scored 6-0 with Randy Miller Jr. and Larry McKnight equalizing at 3 points to tie at 58-58 with 7:32 to go. McKnight tied two other 3 points to give North Carolina Central a 66-61 lead with 5:20 left.
The Bisons scored 14-4 to take a 28-20 lead in the first half. Central Carolina responded with a 14-6 record to tie the game at 34-34.
Then, in the last two minutes, the Bison scored 6-0 to take a 40-34 lead at halftime. Tyson Ward scored on a trip after the game and a quick break while Sam Griesel scored for a workout during the mini-run.
Seven different Bison scored in the first half, with Ward leading with 11 points and Samuelson draining three 3 points for nine points. The Bison made 7 treys out of 14 in the first half. They were surpassed 17-13 in the first half.