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Miller, Ward return to form as Bison men defeat Florida A&M

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Tyson Ward of North Dakota State teaches for a loose ball during their basketball game with Florida A&M on Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 2

FARGO—The two most dangerous North Dakota State players with the basketball went the first three games with more blanks than live bullets. On Wednesday night, Paul Miller and Tyson Ward fine-tuned their weapons and gunned down Florida A&M.

The two guards used their length and athleticism at all spots on the Scheels Center court. Ward had 17 points and Miller 16 and the Bison defeated the Rattlers 80-66 at the Sanford Health Athletic Center for their second straight win.

It didn't have the marquee value of beating Missouri State last weekend, and Bison head coach Dave Richman's message to his team this week was don't make that the highlight of the season.

That answer was mixed on Wednesday. Richman said he liked the way his team came out and took care of business.

"But I wasn't pleased with the way we finished it," he said. "We hit the Thanksgiving break a little early. ... The whole flow of the game, it just felt a little choppy, not a lot of rhythm to it."

Miller and Ward had their moments of choppiness coming in. Miller was 11 of 41 from the field for 27 percent, which considering his history was of no concern to the Bison coaching staff. Ward was slightly better with a 10 of 27 showing from the field for 37 percent.

It was just a matter of time before both found their game.

"Me and Paul had been struggling a bit getting the ball through the net," Ward said.

Miller hit his first shot, a 3-pointer, and that was a sign of things to come. He finished the half 3 of 4 from beyond the arc with 16 points and the Bison had a 42-28 halftime lead.

Moreover, both filled the stat sheet. Miller finished with 7 rebounds and 6 assists and Ward 7 rebounds and 4 assists. About the only downfall was Miller's shot fell off in the second half.

"It felt good, it got my confidence going," he said of the first half. "But I missed probably my last seven so that didn't help. But it definitely felt good to finally hit a couple."

It didn't take for the Bison to grab a double-digit lead in the first half and they held serve from there.

NDSU put it away in the first five minutes of the second half. Ward started a run of eight straight with a free throw and field goal. Jared Samuelson's 3-point field goal capped the brief streak to make it 50-30.

Later, Rocky Kreuser's 3-pointer put the Bison up 55-32. The 6-foot-9 true freshman from White Bear Lake, Minn., had his best offensive showing finishing with 10 points including a pair of treys.

The Rattlers are in the midst of an ironman road trip to open the season. Their home opener was Monday against Albany State (Ga.), which will go down as the only home game in their first 12 outings.

The Bison game starts a road trip that will take them to Wisconsin-Green Bay on Friday and Stephen F. Austin (Texas) on Sunday. The Rattlers, who played in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, fell to 1-5.

The Bison get another Florida team on Saturday when Stetson University comes to town. On Wednesday, Ward was reunited with a handful of friends.

"We either grew up together, played AAU together or in high school," he said. "It's one of those basketball bonds that can't be broken. Playing against your friends, you have to win, so you can go back home and give you a little edge."

FA&M (1-5): Williams 5-11 2-2 12, Martin 6-12 1-3 13, Reaves 2-5 0-0 4, Cole 1-6 0-0 3, Barham 9-20 4-4 23, Severado 0-0 2-2 2, Bowman 0-4 0-0 0, Harrell 0-0 0-0 0, Myles 0-0 0-0 0, Ravenel 3-5 0-0 9. Totals: 26-63 9-11.

NDSU (3-2): Jacobson 4-6 2-2 13, D. Miller 1-3 0-0 2, P. Miller 4-11 5-6 16, Samuelson 1-3 0-0 3, Ward 7-13 1-2 17, Quayle 0-3 0-0 0, Hunter 2-3 5-7 9, Geu 4-4 2-4 10, Eliason 0-1 0-0 0, Kreuser 3-5 2-2 10. Totals: 26-52 17-23 80.

Halftime: NDSU 42, FA&M 28. Total fouls: FA&M 20, NDSU 14. Fouled out: Ward. Rebounds: FA&M 33 (Martin 12); NDSU 32 (P. Miller, Ward 7). 3-point goals: FA&M 5-16 (Reaves 0-1, Cole 1-2, Barham 1-7, Bowman 0-1, Ravenel 3-5); NDSU 11-25 (Jacobson 3-5, D. Miller 0-1, P. Miller 3-8, Samuelson 1-3, Ward 2-4, Quayle 0-1, Hunter 0-1, Krueser 2-2). Assists: FA&M 15 (Reaves 6); NDSU 14 (Miller 6). Turnovers: FA&M 8 (Williams, Barham 3), NDSU 6 (D. Miller, Ward 2). A-2,723.