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With South Dakota schools atop Summit, Bison basketball teams look to make a run

Paul Miller of North Dakota State drives past Sam Kearns of Oral Roberts Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum News Service

FARGO—The Summit League is reaching its halfway point of the season this week in both men's and women's basketball. Right now, you can chisel the Rushmore State as the president of the conference.

South Dakota became the men's leader Wednesday night, Jan. 24, with an 87-68 home win over South Dakota State while Fort Wayne firmly sits in third place at 3-3. On the women's side, the Coyotes and Jackrabbits are both unbeaten in conference play heading into their showdown on Thursday night, Jan. 25.

The North Dakota State programs, meanwhile, are in self-improvement mode with the hope of making a splash in March at the Summit tournaments in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Bison men are 2-3 in the league and 10-10 overall heading into Thursday night's home game against Nebraska-Omaha.

"The big thing for us and our group is we can't let circumstances affect our actions," said NDSU head coach Dave Richman.

The circumstances of note are two straight losses and three in the last four games. Two of those came at home, where the Bison have also dropped three of four.

"We get back at home to right some wrongs," Richman said. "Need to get rid of this home losing streak and the ups and downs that we've had here at home."

NDSU will need to shore up its defense. Omaha stuck 96 points on the Bison last year and Fort Wayne put a 92-88 loss on NDSU last weekend. There wasn't the defensive resistance Richman wanted against North Dakota last week, either.

"We have to clean some things up defensively," he said.

Offensively, Paul Miller is third in the Summit in scoring at 18.9 points per game, which would be the most for NDSU since Lawrence Alexander averaged that same figure in 2014-15. Miller needs eight points against the Mavericks to become the 12th player in Bison history to reach 1,500 career points.

Also impressive with his season: He's averaging 3.7 assists, which is more than double the 1.5 per game he averaged his first three seasons.

"When you have a guy competing, flying around, scoring and not backing down from anybody, that's infectious," Richman said.

The Bison women are on the road this week in an attempt to raise their profile in the standings. They've made strides in the overall win column compared to previous years at 8-11, but are also in search of a quality win. Of the eight victories, three were over NAIA teams and the combined record of the other five was 24-72 heading into Wednesday night.

There will be opportunities in the next few weeks. NDSU plays the five league teams with winning records six times before the Summit tourney starting at Western Illinois on Saturday afternoon.

So far, NDSU has done it with balance on offense with five players averaging between 9.4 and 10.0 points, with three right at 9.4 heading into Wednesday night's game at Omaha.

Nebraska-Omaha at North Dakota State

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Where: Scheels Center at Sanford Health Athletic Complex

TV: Midco. Radio: 107.9-FM, 1660-AM.

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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