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Mike McFeely, Published January 30 2009

Big Two becomes the Big Four

Mike Nelson and Lucas Moormann were the invitees to the media interview room Thursday after North Dakota State’s 81-71 victory over Oakland at the fun house known as the Bison Sports Arena.

This happens as often as the

Arizona Cardinals play in the Super Bowl.

In a season that long ago became the Woody and Winks Show, fellow seniors Nelson and Moormann took 4,552 home fans back to the days when the Bison basketball team revolved around the Big Four.

Nelson found his gone-missing shooting touch and finished with 21 points, including a late 3-pointer that sealed the deal and had Oakland coach Greg Kampe shaking his head when the shot hit every side of the rim and hung tantalizingly still before falling through.

Moormann, once approaching Nick Mertens status as a whipping boy for Bison zealots, did a little bit of everything – and that includes (sit down if you are prone to shock) making free throws. Big Luke finished with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and four free throws. Out of four tries. No kidding.

“I have faith in those guys,” Bison head coach Saul Phillips said. “Especially Mike Nelson, who’s been doing everything for us for four years. It was a little surprising to see Luke come out as aggressive as he did. But even if he didn’t have the 14 points, he eventually settled in and got the job done on the defensive end.”

Nelson is the Energizer Bunny on defense for NDSU, and has been for four seasons. He was also as dependable jump shooter as can be found in the Summit League. This season has been different. There have been nights when the jumper was absent. Nelson scored three points in NDSU’s loss at Oakland, five points in a home win against IUPUI and four points last weekend at South Dakota State.

He was 7 of 11 Thursday, including 3 of 4 on triples. Nelson nailed back-to-back 3-pointers that stretched the Bison’s lead from 68-64 to 74-64. The buckets were smack dab in the middle of NDSU’s clinching 13-0 run.

“Nelson got nothing against us last time,” Kampe said. “He made some big shots in that little run. One was a really deep 3 and the other one hit the front of the rim and the back of the rim and then hung before falling in. They got the shots to fall. It was their night.”

Moormann did not resemble the player he was early in the season, when he was at times invisible on the floor. Most of his baskets were set up by Ben Woodside driving and dishing for easy layups, but the 6-foot-10 center was noticeable in other ways.

Moormann grabbed some tough rebounds in traffic, swatted a shot by Oakland’s 6-11 center Will Hudson and even dumped a perfect pass to Nelson for an easy layup during the decisive run.

It was also Moormann who tipped a loose-ball defensive rebound away from a pack of Oakland players, leading to Brett Winkelman’s breakaway layup with 2 1/2 minutes left. Winkelman was fouled and made the free throw to cap the Bison’s spurt and give them a 77-64 lead.

“It’s one that I really couldn’t get two hands on,” Moormann said. “I was just trying to keep it away from the basket. I didn’t even see Winks. Luckily he was there.”

The 14 points was a season-high for Moormann. It was just his fourth double-digit game of the season. Before Thursday, Moormann had as many scoreless games as double-digit games.

“We missed free throws and they didn’t,” Kampe said. “Even down the stretch we put their non-shooters on the free-throw line and they made every one. They were home, it was their night, a veteran team trying to win a championship. They did what they had to do.”


Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com