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Ward’s late game heroics lifts North Dakota State over NC Central

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By Dasha Beauchamp

Dayton, OH — Tyson Ward came up big Wednesday night as North Dakota State beat North Carolina Central 78-74, to advance to the round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament. The Bison will now play the overall No. 1 seed, the Duke Blue Devils, on Friday night.

“Thought we got into some adverse situations, and we showed our toughness,” N.C. Central coach LeVelle Moton said after the game. “We fought and we fought and we fought some more. Unfortunately, with two minutes left, we just didn’t make the plays that were required to win a basketball game of this magnitude.”

As the first half got underway, NC Central crashed the offensive boards in hopes of keeping the lead. The Eagles pulled down seven as compared to the Bison’s two. However, North Dakota State used a strong shooting performance from deep to grab the lead by halftime. The Bison shot 50% from long range (7-for-14) and was up by six at intermission, 40-34.

Out of the break, the Bison came out motivated as it went on a 6-0 run to start the half. But, North Dakota State went cold for nearly four minutes and its lead evaporated as NC Central took a 66-63 lead.

The Eagles and Bison battled for the remainder of the game trading baskets, but in the end, it was the clutch play by North Dakota State’s Tyson Ward that brought home the 78-74 victory for the Bison.

Ward scored on consecutive possessions to push out North Dakota State’s lead. Ward finished a spin move lay-up with a 1:06 remaining to give his team a 73-70 lead. With 30 seconds left in the game, he bullied his way down in the paint to yet again score two points for his team and extend the lead to 75-70.

North Dakota State’s Tyson Ward hits a clutch layup. Video by Dasha Beauchamp/The Ball Out

NC Central’s Larry McKnight Jr. responded on the following possession to bring his team within three-points, 75-72, with 21 seconds left on the clock. But, the Eagles were forced to foul and North Dakota State iced the game at the line to win, 78-74.

“I thought that was key to make free throws, something that we’ve pretty much done all year,” coach David Richman of the Bison said. “Again, when it’s this time of year, it’s going to come down to possession here, possession there and those free throws. Every one of them is crucial.”

Ward lead the Bison with 23 points, six rebounds, and three assists in the win. Raasean Davis and McKnight Jr. both dropped 20 for NC Central, but for the third consecutive year, the Eagles were knocked out in First Four play.

North Dakota State will return to the floor on Friday against Duke in Columbia.

“You always want to play the best. So chalk it up, and we’ll see what happens,” Ward said on playing the Blue Devils next.

“We’re ready for the challenge, ready to go compete,” Jared Samuelson shared. 

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