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Kevin Schnepf, Published January 30 2009

Signature first: NDSU defeats Oakland for first time in school history

The Oakland jinx is over.

North Dakota State’s men’s basketball team made sure of it Thursday night with a late-game 13-0 run to claim an 81-71 Summit League victory over Oakland – the first win in five tries against the school from suburban Detroit.

Before an announced Bison Sports Arena crowd of 4,552, the Bison outscored Oakland 17-7 in the final 5½ minutes, preventing a fourth-straight buzzer-beating loss to the Golden Grizzlies.

“We thought it would come down to the bitter end again … luckily we got a big lead on them,” said Bison senior Mike Nelson, who led the Bison with 21 points while limiting hot-shooting guard Eric Kangas to 13 points.

Last year in the Bison Sports Arena, Oakland won on a last-second tip-in. In the last two wins over the Bison, Kangas – who was averaging 33 points in the last three games – hit game-winning 3-pointers.

It wasn’t to be this time as the Bison built a 77-64 lead with 2 minutes, 27 seconds remaining.

“I told the guys before the game if you don’t want Kangas to beat us, build a 10-point lead,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips, who was bracing to use a card full of last-second plays in the event of another tight finish. “I was as surprised as anyone that it didn’t go down to the wire.”

The win boosts NDSU’s record to 15-5 overall and 9-1 in the Summit League – good for a half-game lead over idle Oral Roberts. The loss drops Oakland to 13-10 overall and 6-4 in the Summit.

“It was just their night,” said Greg Kampe, in his 25th year as head coach at Oakland. “They are a veteran team that is trying to win a championship.”

Kampe and sophomore Will Hudson, who scored a career-high 18 points for Oakland, thought the game was going to go down to the wire again.

But NDSU’s winning rally started innocently with two Brett Winkelman free throws with 5:37 remaining. After Keith Benson missed two free throws, Bison center Lucas Moormann dumped a pass inside to a flashing Nelson for an easy layup to make it 68-64.

With the crowd up, Nelson had trouble hearing himself call out screens for his teammates. Nelson was able to stay in the face of Kangas, who missed a long 3-pointer. Seconds later, Nelson drained a deep 3-pointer to give the Bison a 71-64 lead.

After Benson missed another free throw, Nelson drained another 3-pointer from the key – this one bouncing off the back of the rim, off the backboard, off the front of the rim before falling. The Bison led 74-64 with 2:47 remaining.

“I got lucky with a soft bounce,” said Nelson, who surpassed Dan Wilberscheid and Mark Emerson as NDSU’s No. 10 all-time leading scorer with 1,415 career points.

“A complete all-around game,” Phillips said of Nelson. “I can’t imagine the amount of calories he uses during a game.”

And very few imagined that Moormann would produce 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and a blocked shot. The 6-foot-10 senior from Dickinson, N.D., came up with a big play when he punched out an offensive rebound that led to a 3-point fastbreak play by Winkelman to give the Bison their 77-64 lead.

“It was just one of those rebounds I couldn’t get two hands on,” Moormann said. “To be honest, I didn’t even see Winks. Luckily, he was there.”

The Bison ended up making 21 of 22 free throws – a 91.7 percentage that set a school record. The old mark was 20 of 21 set in 2003 against South Dakota.

“They made their free throws and we didn’t,” said Kampe, whose team made 11 of 18 free throws – missing three during NDSU’s winning rally. “For 32 minutes it was a pretty damn good game.”

Ben Woodside, who ranks sixth nationally in scoring with his 24.2 average, finished with 16 points and 10 assists.

Brett Winkelman, who scored 33 in the Jan. 2 heartbreaking loss at Oakland, scored 12 to surpass Joe Regnier as NDSU’s No. 3 all-time scorer. He now has 1,723 career points.

Michael Tveidt was the fifth Bison starter to score in double figures with 11 points.

The Bison now have a seven-game winning streak and have won 10 straight at home. Their last loss was that Jan. 2 77-76 loss at Oakland.

“It feels pretty good,” Phillips said.

OU (13-10 overall, 6-4 Summit League): Hudson 7-10 4-4 18, Benson 6-8 1-5 13, Jonesw 5-11 5-5 17, Kangas 5-16 0-0 13, Maynard 2-6 1-4 7, Samuels 0-0 0-0 0, Cushingberry 1-4 0-0 3, Waterstradt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-55 (FG), 11-18 (FT).

NDSU (15-5 overall, 9-1 Summit League): Winkelman 4-11 3-3 12, Tveidt 4-7 2-2 11, Moormann 5-6 4-4 14, Woodside 6-15 3-3 16, Nelson 7-11 4-5 21. Totals: 27-53 (FG), 21-22 (FT).

Halftime: OU 44, NDSU 40. 3-point goals: OU 8-22 (Jones 2-4, Kangas 3-10, Maynard 2-5, Cushingberry 1-3), NDSU 6-15 (Winkelman 1-3, Tveidt 1-4, Woodside 1-4, Nelson 3-4). Total fouls: OU 15, NDSU 14. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: OU 27 (Benson 10, Kangas 5), NDSU 33 (Winkelman 9, Woodside 6, Moormannn 5). Assists: OU 17 (Jones 9, Benson 4), NDSU 17 (Woodside 10, Nelson 3). Steals: OU 7 (Kangas 2, Maynard 2), NDSU 8 (Winkelman 4). Turnovers: OU 9 (Jones 4), NDSU 10 (Woodside 4). A-4,552.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com