SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Vinnie Shahid heeded his teammates' advice after a rough first half, and helped lead North Dakota State back to the NCAA Tournament.
Shahid scored 20 of his 22 points after halftime, and the Bison beat Omaha 73-63 on Tuesday night in the Summit League Tournament title game to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2015.
"My teammates did a good job of giving me confidence," said Shahid, who was 1-of-4 shooting before the half. "They told me, 'Keep being aggressive, keep being aggressive. It's going to fall when we need it to.'"
The No. 4-seeded Bison (17-15) also got 15 points and seven rebounds from Tyson Ward.
North Dakota State saw a 14-point second-half lead evaporate before securing the win with a late run. Omaha (21-10) tied it at 51 with 8:37 to play and had a chance at the lead, but Matt Pile missed a free throw on a potential three-point play. From there, the Bison went on a 9-0 run and were never threatened again, sealing the win with free throws down the stretch.
"This is a really good, talented Omaha team," North Dakota State coach David Richman said. "We knew they were going to make a push and that push happened. But this group has really grown."
Mitch Hahn scored 16 points and Zach Jackson had 15 for Omaha. Pile finished with 12 points and 14 rebounds while KJ Robinson scored 11 points.
Ward got back on track after scoring a season-low three points in North Dakota State's semifinal win over Western Illinois. He had 25 points in a quarterfinal win over Oral Roberts.
Ward had 11 against Omaha at halftime, and then Shahid took over. Shahid's 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 2:10 remaining lifted the lead back to 10.
The No. 2-seeded Mavericks had gone the final 6:44 of the first half without a field goal. North Dakota State built a 41-27 halftime lead.
"You can't play uphill all night," Omaha coach Derrin Hansen said. "They had the lead for 36 minutes of the game. When you play uphill all night, it takes a lot of energy to overcome that."
North Dakota State: Has a 1-3 record in the NCAA Tournament, including an 80-75, overtime upset of No. 5 seed Oklahoma in 2014. This was the Bison's fifth title game appearance in seven years.
Omaha: This is the second time Omaha has played in the Summit League title game. The program has never played in the NCAA Tournament.
NDSU's Cameron Hunter scored 12 points off the bench and hit all three of his attempts both from 3-point range and from the free-throw line. Meanwhile, Omaha got just six bench points, all from Ayo Akinwole.
North Dakota State: The Bison will find out their NCAA Tournament opponent on Sunday.
Omaha: The 21 wins are the most in the Mavericks' Division I history. They lose one senior in Jackson.