They're no Dunk City, but North Dakota State has got to be the most exciting team playing in Spokane. The Bison faithful made the 1,100-plus mile drive from Fargo to be the loudest and most numerous group of the day. Even local Spokane media, used raucous fans at Gonzaga games, took note.
I am really impressed with #BisoNation right now! Its fans haven't sat down all game. @NDSUathletics #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/hlaJvFmKcj— KHQKatieSteiner (@KHQKatieSteiner) March 21, 2014
Enough about the fans. They came here to watch a team play basketball and that team plays exciting basketball. The Bison had two threes and two dunks in the first five minutes of play. The Bison are the nation's best shooting team at 50.9%. Can't get a higher percentage shot than a dunk.
While the Bison were impressing the crowd, the Sooners were putting on a show of their own. Six three pointers in the first half kept Oklahoma close at all times. The Bison took two five point leads in the early going but Oklahoma came back each time.
In the middle of the first half it looked as if the Bison's freewheeling style, which allowed them to win over the crowd, would be their demise. Each of North Dakota State's six turnovers in the first half came between the 10:50 and 6:21 minute marks.
The Bison were lucky to have just six turnovers. Had the Sooners played defense with their hands up many more of the low skip passes the Bison were throwing would have been knocked down.
Despite all the sloppy play, the Sooners managed to build just a three point lead. NDSU had no problem, once they got out of their funk, climbing out of the hole.
The Bison had recovered well to close out the half, in which they shot 62.5%, to take a 37-29 lead into the locker room. It was surprising then that the second half started off sloppier than the sloppiest part of the first.
Six turnovers between the teams, four from NDSU, in the first five minutes of the second, helped the Sooners work back into the game. With 15:21 to play, former Gonzaga Bulldog Ryan Spangler scored the first points of his homecoming. His dunk cut the Bison lead to four. Buddy Hield cut it to two just 18 seconds later.
A few minutes later the Sooners had it all tied up at 50. The tie didn't last, because NDSU has Taylor Braun on its roster.
Over the final ten minutes the Sooners would challenge and the Bison would answer, over and over again.
Until, with 1:30 left to play and the score 61-60 Bison, Taylor Braun made a game changing play. This one was notable because it didn't help his team. His pass was intercepted by Oklahoma's Isaiah Cousins, who was then fouled by Kory Brown. Cousins hit both free throws and the Sooners took their first lead of the half, which would be extended to four.
Isaiah Cousins fouled Taylor Braun with half a minute to play. Since the Bison were not in the double-bonus, and trailed by two possessions, the weight of the game sat on Braun's shoulders. He calmly connected on both and brought the Bison within two.
Cousins was fouled on the next possession but only made one of his two free throws. 66-63 Sooners, it was just a one possession game. Enter, Lawrence Alexander. Okay, he had been the Bison's leading scorer in the game, but he really made his presence known with 11.2 seconds remaining by hitting a three from the wing to tie it up at 66.
Oklahoma had the ball, called a timeout, and then proceeded to miss three shots in 10 seconds... OVERTIME!
The Bison struck first in overtime, but couldn't really build any momentum. Leads grew to four and shrunk to zero until the game changed thanks to a sneaker in the face.
Taylor Braun hit an acrobatic reverse lay-up to make it 72-70 NDSU. As he fell to the ground a the shoe of a Sooner, who was trying to grab the ball but got sorta tied up in Braun's legs, struck the star guard in the face.
No foul was called, it was an accident, but it must have shaken up Braun. He fouled out on the next possession.
Their star player's departure energized the Bison, who then energized the crowd, who in turn energized the Bison. An 8-2 run from NDSU followed, with the two Oklahoma points coming immediately after the Braun foul.
Final: David 80 - Goliath 75. Has a new Cinderella been born?