In hosted events such as the Hilltop Challenge, there is always the "other game", that second game that doesn'tfeature the host team. Sometimes these games still hold some local interest ifone of the participants is from the area, but in many cases these games takeplace in a virtually empty arena. This was definitely the case for Saturday'ssecond game of San Francisco's Hilltop Challenge. Once the host Dons defeatedNorthern Arizona in the first game of the evening War Memorial Gym practicallyemptied out before the second game between Louisiana-Lafayette and North DakotaState. Even the distracting advertisements were turned off for the second game,with the boards simply reading "San Francisco" for the entirety of the contest.
Both the Bison and the Ragin' Cajunswon their first game in the Challenge on Friday night, with NDSU defeating USFand ULL beating Northern Arizona, so in the context of a traditionalelimination tournament this would have been the championship game. In realitythe game was played in front of just over 100 scattered die-hards, including asmall but vocal contingent of North Dakota State fans (apparently Bison Fevertravels fairly well). Shortly after the game started the PA announcer invitedthe few of us who remained in the upper level to move down to the lower-levelreserve seats, so our $10 tickets got us into the 4th row near midcourt. Much like the earlier USF/NorthernArizona game, the score of this game was close through much of the first half,with sophomore forward J.J. Thomas (featuring an awesome beard) keeping theRagin' Cajuns close early on. Late in the half the Bison pulled ahead to take a38-33 lead into halftime. As befitting the "other game" in suchan event, there was no scheduled halftime entertainment, so the ballboys endedup having an impromptu shootaround on one end of the floor until the teamsemerged for the second-half warm-ups. Once the second half was under way theBison scored the first five points to take a 43-33 lead, then proceeded tobuild on that lead through a foul-plagued second half (both teams were in thedouble bonus with more than eight minutes left). At the under-8 timeout theBison had stretched the lead to 65-46 and the Ragin' Cajuns couldn't makeanother run. Sophomore guard Mike Felt made four three-pointers to finish witha game-leading 18 points (one of four NDSU starters in double figures) and theBison rolled to a 78-58 victory. A rarely-spoken advantage of asparsely attended event is the ease of egress. After looking at the collectionof championship awards in the lobby we walked the four blocks back up the hill to the car and easily drove away. Good Night, Hoops Nation.
NORTH DAKOTA STATE 78, LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 58 11/12/2011
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 1-1 (0-0) -- J. Thomas 4-7 0-0 9; R. Andrews 0-1 0-0 0; D. Jackson 1-5 1-2 3; B. Mbamalu 3-9 3-6 9; D. McClellan 1-4 7-12 9; J. Brown 2-8 0-0 4; E. Payton 5-8 3-3 13; D. Perez 0-3 0-0 0; A. Thompson 0-2 0-0 0; S. Farrington 2-3 4-6 8; K. Coleby 0-1 1-2 1; K. Smith 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 19-53 19-31 58. NORTH DAKOTA STATE 2-0 (0-0) -- L. Alexander 6-9 3-5 16; M. Felt 4-10 6-7 18; M. Bjorklund 4-7 5-6 13; T. Braun 5-6 7-7 17; J. Lindberg 1-2 2-2 5; D. Hale 2-6 0-0 5; T. Wright 1-6 0-0 2; N. Zastrow 0-2 0-0 0; J. Aaberg 1-1 0-0 2; D. Lundberg 0-1 0-0 0; F. Newell 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 23-27 78.
Three-point goals: ULL 1-10 (D. McClellan 0-1; D. Perez 0-2; J. Brown 0-1; B. Mbamalu 0-1; J. Thomas 1-2; A. Thompson 0-2; K. Smith 0-1), NDST 7-16 (M. Felt 4-9; N. Zastrow 0-1; D. Hale 1-3; T. Wright 0-1; J. Lindberg 1-1; L. Alexander 1-1); Rebounds: ULL 39 (D. Jackson 10), NDST 25 (T. Braun 5); Assists: ULL 9 (R. Andrews 5), NDST 12 (L. Alexander 5); Total Fouls -- ULL 24, NDST 26; Fouled Out: ULL-None; NDST-None.