Light nights during the college basketball season are welcome for giving us a slight breather from the grind of a season, but also because they offer the opportunity to check in on games and matchups that might slip through the cracks on busier days of the week.
Entering Friday night, North Dakota and North Dakota State had met 288 times (according to NDSU), or maybe 290 times (UND count). It’s a series that dates back more than 100 years, and if few know that it’s understandable because both were members of NCAA Division II up until 2004, and UND was still in D-II for a few more years after NDSU began its transition to the top level.
Rich as that rivalry has been, it had something of a cooling when the Bison left both schools’ then 82-year home in the now-defunct North Central Conference to make their move to Division I. Even as both are D-I members now, they have settled in new homes-North Dakota State in the Summit League, North Dakota in the Big Sky Conference.
The teams have played each of the last six seasons now, though, and the rivalry is kindling quite nicely again. North Dakota leads the all-time series but today is ruing a missed opportunity, as North Dakota State rallied from a 15-point second half deficit for a 69-67 win.
UND led 40-25 early in the second half before the Bison fought back. Freshman Khy Kabellis came off the bench to score all 18 of his points in the final 20 minutes. His three-pointer with 3:38 left tied the game at 58-58, and his layup 40 seconds later gave NDSU its first lead since just over four minutes into the game. North Dakota-now known as the Fighting Hawks-had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but Geno Crandall’s three-point attempt from straight on was blocked by Dexter Werner.
The Bison won the game from the three-point line, making 9 of 21 from deep (42.9%). The Bison actually almost shot better from 3 than from the foul line, where they were 14 of 31 (45.2%). North Dakota was only 12 of 22 from the line itself, though, and the result was another win for a Summit League that currently is an impressive 11th in conference RPI, per CBSSports.com.
- A very light night still had several strong NCAA Tournament possibilities in action. Pittsburgh bullied Eastern Washington 84-51, outrebounding the Eagles 43-22. Michael Young scored 21 for the Panthers, who are 7-1 or better through eight games for the 15th time in the last 16 years.
- Valparaiso took care of Chicago State on the road by a 71-53 score. Alec Peters was a perfect 6-for-6 from three and scored 26 points.
- The night’s other scores: TCU easily over Prairie View 73-55, Tennessee-Martin defeated Texas-Rio Grande Valley 72-64 and South Carolina Upstate topped NCAA Division II North Greenville (S.C.) 70-58.
- Unfortunate news for college basketball fans Friday, as well as some genuinely sad news. The former was the announcement by Michigan’s Spike Albrecht that he will end his collegiate career in order to focus on rehabbing after hip surgery in the summer. Albrecht will always be remembered for his performance in the Final Four in 2013, when he came from nowhere to score 17 points in the Wolverines’ loss to Louisville. He had played in eight games this season, averaging 1.9 points in 8.6 minutes per game.
- Also, tragic news from the day as former Tulane and NBA star John “Hot Rod” Williams passed away Friday at the age of 53 as a result of prostate cancer. Williams is best remembered professionally as a member of the Mark Price/Brad Daugherty era Cleveland Cavaliers. He played collegiately at Tulane, where he was part of a point shaving scandal that resulted in the shuddering of the Green Wave program for four years, though he was never found guilty in two separate trials. Condolences to his family at this difficult time.
Today’s menu: A busy December Saturday
- The game of the day is Cincinnati at Xavier (5:30 p.m. EST, FS1). We’ll say it over and over: from our view, this rivalry is as good as any in the country. And yes, that includes the one between those two ACC schools.
- Utah is at Wichita State (3:30 p.m., ESPN2). Once again for this game, ESPN is resorting to its exceptionally cheap tactic of broadcasting essentially from a phone booth. At least ESPN has assigned two of its very finest announcers for the game in Rich Hollenberg and Mark Adams. If anyone can overcome the lesser quality of sound integration, these are the men for the job.
- Before the season, Marquette’s game at Wisconsin (1:30 p.m., ESPN2) would’ve looked like an easy call for the Badgers. Now with the Golden Eagles picking it up after some early struggles and UW still up-and-down, this one is back near its ultracompetitive level of a few years ago.
- Bobby Hurley is already instilling that Hurley toughness into Arizona State, and the Sun Devils will put that to the test when they go to Kentucky (3:15 p.m., ESPN).
- North Carolina gets a good road test at Texas (5:15 p.m., ESPN, and this is also a good measuring stick game for Shaka Smart’s first Longhorns team.
- Florida wasn’t quite up to the task earlier in the week when it took on Miami. It gets no easier-now the Gators go to Michigan State (6 p.m., ESPN2).
- UNC-Wilmington and St. Mary’s are two of the 10 remaining undefeated teams, and both have stiff road tests. The Seahawks are at Georgetown (2:30 p.m., CBSSN) while the Gaels are at California against the Golden Bears’ talented starting five.
- Another unbeaten team is Arkansas-Little Rock, and the Trojans have a tough-but-winnable game on the road at DePaul on national television, albeit at a late hour (10 p.m., FS1).
- It’s unfair to call a December game a must-win, but a home game against Oregon is almost just that for Boise State (7 p.m., CBSSN) if the Broncos want to compete for an at-large bid in March. These teams are very similar on the offensive end. Should be fun.
- Oregon State has sort of slipped from the radar after that early loss to Valparaiso, but the Beavers could slow it down and make it tough on Kansas (8 p.m., ESPN2) in one of the Jayhawks’ technically-not-at-home-but-still-home games in Kansas City.
- Arizona already won there…can UCLA also pull it off at Gonzaga? (10 p.m., ESPN2) The Zags have been a little shaky of late, but they’re due for a big performance. Remember: it’s still early, and teams are going to improve.
- Finally, on the same Saturday as the Army/Navy football game we also have a pair of military matchups, with Navy taking on VMI and Army at Air Force.
Have a superb Saturday.