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Status of Miller uncertain for NDSU men's basketball's fourth straight trip to title game

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- North Dakota State will play in the Summit League men's basketball title game for the fourth straight year on Tuesday night. This one has some player personnel mystery to it.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- North Dakota State will play in the Summit League men's basketball title game for the fourth straight year on Tuesday night. This one has some player personnel mystery to it.

Leading scorer Paul Miller was suspended by head coach Dave Richman before Monday night's semifinal win over Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne for "not meeting expectations" of the team. Richman also said a decision will be made Tuesday morning if Miller will suit up against South Dakota State in the 8 p.m. championship game at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

"If he understands the expectations, absolutely," Richman said. "If not ... it's a decision to see if Paul understands."

Miller came back last week after missing six games because of a knee injury. He looked sharp at times in NDSU's opening-round win over IUPUI and was part of team warm ups against the Mastodons.

Junior Carlin Dupree started instead of Miller against IPFW and he responded with a career-high 22 points including the game-winning bucket with 4.0 seconds left. Even if Miller is reinstated, it remains to be seen if he'll keep his starting spot.

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Either way, the Bison will face an SDSU team that it split with during the regular season. They'll have to contend with the partisan Jackrabbit crowd in Sioux Falls, something NDSU did last year when it beat the Jackrabbits last year to reach the NCAA tournament.

"I thought about that game a lot last year, all off season, all summer, all pre-season," said SDSU guard Jake Bittle. "We're ready for that game. We're ready."

Like the Bison, the Jacks staged a furious second half rally to defeat the University of Denver 54-53 in the other semifinal. The Pioneers led by 13 in the second half and then had Joe Rosga at the free throw line with 1.2 seconds left with a bonus free throw, but his first attempt was short and SDSU advanced.

"We know offensively we were so bad it's unbelievable we can win that basketball game," said SDSU head coach Scott Nagy.

NDSU won 20 games for the fourth straight season and will be going for its fourth trip overall to the Big Dance. The first came in 2009 in the first year the Bison were eligible for Division I postseason after completing a Division II reclassification.

"I wouldn't do the program justice if I didn't talk about Woodside, Moormann, Braun, Bjorklund, TrayVonn and Lawrence--all the guys that laid the foundation and set an example of what this culture is all about," Richman said. "It's toughness and togetherness. I think you lock in and believe in those things more so this time of the year."

That was in reference to Ben Woodside, Lucas Moormann, Taylor Braun, Marshall Bjorklund, TrayVonn Wright and Lawrence Alexander. Certainly, there were more players who led the way, but Richman made his point.

The Bison will need to find a couple leaders Tuesday night against the Jacks. As Denver discovered and what Oral Roberts found out in the opening round, a large crowd can help fuel a rally.

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"We know it will be a slower paced game," Nagy said. "I don't think the kids think about that, if it's a lower scoring game we can win those. We're just going to focus on each possession. We played them twice this year and it's always a battle."

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