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By Kevin Schnepf, Published December 18 2008

Men's basketball: VCSU, NDSU meet

Jeff Kaminsky has gone against Saul Phillips before – each time is what he considers a daunting task.

Tonight at the Bison Sports Arena, Kaminsky will coach against Phillips when his Valley City State men’s basketball team takes on North Dakota State.

Kaminsky considers it about as big of a mismatch as when he sent his Wisconsin-Superior team against Wisconsin-Platteville – a team that included point guard Saul Phillips.

“He was part of one of the best programs in Division III history,” Kaminsky said of Phillips, who was the captain of Platteville’s 1995 undefeated national championship team. “They were on a different level. There are very many similarities with our game against NDSU.”

For starters, Valley City State is an NAIA team that competes in the Dakota Athletic Conference – the same league that includes Mayville State, a 128-64 loser to the Bison earlier this season.

With five starters back from last year’s 22-8 team, Valley City State is aiming for a berth in the NAIA national tournament.

NDSU, meanwhile, is aiming for a berth in the NCAA Division I tournament.

“No doubt, this will be the most difficult challenge we will have by far this year,” said Kaminsky, in his fourth year as the Vikings’ head coach. “But, we look forward to the opportunity.”

With a 6-6 record, Valley City State is coming off a 67-66 loss at the University of North Dakota. It was a game Kaminsky felt his team should have won considering it had a seven-point lead with 24 seconds remaining.

The Vikings missed three free throws down the stretch. And on a fullcourt inbounds pass that could have run the clock out, a Vikings player was whistled for stepping out of bounds retrieving the ball.

That set up UND’s winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“You’re supposed to win those games,” said Kaminsky, who thinks his team’s six losses are deceptive. “I think our better basketball is ahead of us.”

Three games in five days are ahead for the Bison.

After Valley City, the Bison fly out at 6 a.m. Friday for Saturday’s game with Pac 10 Conference heavyweight Southern California. They fly back at 6 a.m. Sunday to get ready for a Monday night home game against Northern Arizona.

“We will need to pick up a lot of steam going into this stretch,” said Phillips, who remembers Kaminsky building a Wisconsin-Superior program that was able to knock off perennial power Wisconsin-Stevens Point. “He is a very hard-working coach, and he gets his teams to play that way too. It will be a pretty good match up that way.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be

found at www.areavoices.com