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Kevin Schnepf, Published March 11 2009

NDSU is going dancing: Bison men's basketball team secures automatic bid into NCAA tournament after winning Summit League championship

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – They have overcome deficits before, but never in a game of this magnitude.

North Dakota State’s men’s basketball players, known for never wavering when behind, pulled off their biggest comeback in school history with a 66-64 win over Oakland University on Tuesday night to win the Summit League tournament championship and a berth to the NCAA tournament.

Ben Woodside, one of four seniors who have been dreaming of this happening since NDSU was admitted to the league three years ago, hit a game-winning jump shot with 4 seconds remaining to fulfill a dream come true in the Sioux Falls Arena. And the Bison became the first NCAA-recognized team since the 1970 Long Beach State squad to advance to the Big Dance in its first year of eligibility.

“I’m so full of emotion right now,” Woodside said among a throng of Bison fans, his voicing shaking. “It is a dream come true.”

The dream looked like it was going to be shattered when the Bison, trailing by as many as 14 points, were still down 10 points, 60-50, with a little more than seven minutes remaining.

“It was hard to get traction,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “It did come to a point where you wondered, ‘How are we going to get this done?’ ”

Here is how the Bison got it done:

A goaltending call on a Brett Winkelman layup made it 60-52. Michael Tveidt, a junior who led the Bison with 21 points, drained a net-flipping

3-pointer to make it 60-55. Woodside’s jumper from the key kept the Oakland lead at five points, 62-57.

Winkelman’s 3-point play – in which he double-pumped 6-foot-11 Keith Benson into a foul – made it

62-59. Woodside’s floating drive made it 62-61 and the crowd of 3,804 fans – mostly cheering for NDSU – was on its feet.

Finally, with 1:26 remaining, Tveidt drained his fourth 3-pointer to give the Bison a 64-62 lead – their first since 2-0 seconds into the game.

“It looked good all the way,” said senior Mike Nelson, who had chased down a rebound before flipping the ball to Tveidt.

“I knew then that this was our game to win,” said senior Lucas Moormann.

With 15 seconds remaining, Erik Kangas fed Benson inside for a slam dunk that tied the score, 64-64. With NDSU opting not to call a timeout, Woodside hit a jumper from the elbow. Woodside’s point guard counterpart, Johnathon Jones fired up a shot from between the 3-point line and midcourt. It bounced high off the rim.

“My heart stopped for a moment,” Nelson said. “I thought Jones’ shot was in.”

While NDSU fans stormed the court, it was Oakland’s hearts who were broken – unable to become the first No. 3 seed to beat a No. 1 seed in a Summit League championship game.

Oakland did about everything it could to win this game. They limited Woodside and Winkelman – the third-best scoring tandem in Division I averaging 42 points a game – to a combined 24 points. True to form in their nine-game winning streak coming into this game, Oakland’s defense was frustrating the Bison.

Oakland’s focus on Woodside and Winkelman did open things up for Tveidt, who made 8 of 11 field goals – including all four of his 3-pointers.

“This is just the best feeling ever,” Winkelman said. “I’ve never felt such emotion like this in my life.”

OU (22-12 overall): Hudson 7-9 2-2 16, Benson 6-8 0-0 12, Jones 7-15 0-0 15, Kangas 6-16 1-2 16, Maynard 0-1 0-0 0, Samuels 0-0 0-0 0, Cushingberry 1-4 1-2 3, Waterstradt 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 27-55 (FG), 4-6 (FT).

NDSU (26-6 overall): Tveidt 8-11 1-1 21, Moormann 2-4 0-0 4, Woodside 6-17 2-2 15, Winkelman 3-9 3-3 9, Nelson 3-9 0-0 7, Flowers 2-5 2-4 6, Coleman 1-2 0-0 2, Vaughan 0-1 0-0 0, Sussenguth 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 25-60 (FG), 8-10 (FT).

Halftime: OU 43, NDSU 33. 3-point goals: OU 4-15 (Jones 1-4, Kangas 3-8), NDSU 6-14 (Tveidt 4-4, Woodside 1-4, Nelson 1-2). Total fouls: OU 11, NDSU 10. Fouled out: None. Rebounds: OU 32 (Benson 13, Hudson 6), NDSU 33 (Winkelman 10, Nelson 5). Assists: OU 13 (Jones 6, Maynard 3), NDSU 12 (Woodside 5, Nelson 5). Steals: OU 5 (Kangas 3), NDSU 3 (Tveidt 1, Moormann 1, Vaughan 1). Turnovers: OU 8 (Benson 4), NDSU 8 (Tveidt 2, Winkelman 2). A-3,804.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com