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Lineup change sparks Denver in handing Bison second straight home loss

Spencer Eliason of North Dakota State teaches for a rebound over Jake Krafka of Denver during their basketball game Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Fargo. (Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service)1 / 4
Paul Miller of North Dakota State drives past Abiola Akintola of Denver during their basketball game Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Fargo. (Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service)2 / 4
Cameron Hunter of North Dakota State performs a layup in front of Jake Pemberton of Denver during their basketball game Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Fargo. (Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service)3 / 4
Tyson Ward of North Dakota State performs a layup on front of Abiola Akintola of Denver during their basketball game Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, in Fargo. (Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service)4 / 4

FARGO—The home court has not been so homey for the North Dakota State men's basketball team. This one was like walking outside of the Sanford Health Athletic Complex on Thursday night, Jan. 11, with a T-shirt on.

It was about 10 below with a decent wind chill factor for the weather record.

That was also about the coldness factor of the Bison shooters. One of the country's top 3-point shooting teams coming in, NDSU was nowhere near that kind of accuracy and the University of Denver took advantage in taking a 67-61 victory in front of 2,543 fans.

It was the second straight home loss and third in five games for NDSU, which dropped to 1-2 in the Summit League and 9-8 overall. The Bison shot 41 percent including a 6 of 26 from 3-point range.

"Very frustrating, almost a little embarrassing losing at home like this," said guard Paul Miller. "We pride ourselves on protecting our home court and now that's three times this year we haven't."

In one respect, the Bison ran into a team that put itself on the ropes. Head coach Rodney Billups benched his leading scorer Daniel Amigo in an effort to shake up the lineup. It worked.

"Just trying to shock the team," Billups said. "The last few games has been a disappointing effort and it was the right change at the right time. And Daniel responded."

He responded with 13 points and 9 rebounds in a rotation that put four players in double figures led by Joe Rosga with 15 points.

"They made a lineup change and it gave them a boost," said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. "I think that had a positive effect on them. We talked in pregame, from a culture standpoint, guys like playing with different guys. Everybody else stepped up their play."

Ultimately, a poor offensive first 30 minutes for NDSU proved costly. A 13-2 run with under 10 minutes remaining made it interesting, but the Bison couldn't put anything else together in the last three minutes.

"I thought we weren't aggressive at all, early on we were settling for a lot of jump shots," Miller said. "It took until late in the second half to get downhill."

The Pioneer game was the start of the best three-game home stretch of the season, with Oral Roberts coming to the Scheels Center on Saturday afternoon, Jan. 13, and the University of North Dakota next Tuesday.

It was just the sixth home loss in the head coaching career of Richman, who is in his fourth year. That means half have come this year.

"It's disappointing because the fans pay money to watch us play," he said. "I'm disappointed in us talking about progressing and certainly we can have plenty of excuses—we're young—but we can't accept that."

It was a rough first half for the Bison, who were 2 of 12 from 3-point range and shot 36 percent. The Pioneers scored the last nine points to take a 35-22 halftime lead in a 20 minutes they controlled from the outset.

NDSU crept to within 26-22 on Miller's 3-point field goal with 2:48 remaining. But the Bison would not score the rest of the half and faced a big hole in the second half.

As if the first half wasn't enough, the Pioneers opened the second half with two straight treys and the lead was 41-22. They maintained that advantage still leading by 18 halfway through the second half.

That's when NDSU finally got going. It wasn't enough.

"We just can't come out and think the game is going to come to us," Miller said. "We have to grab the game. I don't think we overlooked them at all, we just came out with not enough energy."

DU (7-10, 1-2 Summit): Krafka 2-3 0-0 6, Akintola 1-2 0-0 2, Murkey 6-10 0-0 12, Rosga 6-12 2-3 15, Pemberton 6-13 0-0 14, Rodriguez 1-3 0-0 2, Neff 1-3 0-0 3, Carlisle 0-0 0-0 0, Amigo 5-12 2-2 13. Totals: 28-58 4-6 67.

NDSU (9-8, 1-2 Summit): Jacobson 3-8 2-2 11, Eliason 2-2 4-9 8 , P. Miller 8-19 2-3 20, Hunter 4-12 0-1 8, Ward 4-5 3-8 11, Samuelson 1-2 0-0 3, Quayle 0-0 0-0 0, Geu 0-1 0-0 0, Kreuser 0-1 0-0 0, D. Miller 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 22-54 11-19 61. Halftime: DU 35, NDSU 22. Total fouls: DU 15, NDSU 12. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: DU 38 (Amigo 9); NDSU 29 (Ward 10). 3-point goals: DU 7-17 (Krafka 2-3, Rosga 1-5, Pemberton 2-4, Amigo 1-2); NDSU 6-26 (Jacobson 3-7, P. Miller 2-9, Hunter 0-5, Ward 0-2, Samuelson 1-2, Kreuser 0-1). Assists: DU 17 (Pemberton 4); NDSU 8 (Hunter 3). Turnovers: DU 9 (Rosga, Pemberton 3); NDSU 8 (P. Miller 3). A-2,543.

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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