Mike McFeely, Published March 21 2009
McFeely: Woodside’s Big Dance performance memorableBen Woodside went out the way Ben Woodside deserved to go out: with another game for the memory bank, this time on college basketball’s biggest platform.
Woodside’s 37 points were not enough to carry his North Dakota State team past one of the sport’s titans – Kansas – and the Bison saw their storybook season end with an
84-74 defeat in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Five years ago, linking the Bison to the Big Dance would have been fodder for folly of the first order. But Friday, result aside, seemed a fitting end for the four fifth-year seniors who splashed Fargo’s university on the national canvas. Woodside, Brett Winkelman, Mike Nelson and Lucas Moormann left the court for the last time wearing Bison uniforms with 10,000 fans standing to applaud.
Woodside, as usual, deserved just a smidgen more. The undisputed leader of the pack was magnificent when it counted most, outscoring Kansas’ NBA-bound star Sherron Collins in a can-you-top-this point guard duel and leaving Jayhawks coach Bill Self to close his eyes and rub his face with the look of a man who was drained of answers.
“Coach said he was good. I didn’t know he was that good,” Collins said.
Collins, the Big 12’s best point guard, finished with 32 points and used his fullback-like body and murderous crossover dribble to score at will in stretches. He also passed the ball effectively to big man Cole Aldrich, who parlayed the generosity into eight booming dunks that will have Bison coach Saul Phillips jolting awake in a cold sweat for weeks.
But it was Woodside who won the hearts of the vocal majority inside the Metrodome and the CBS television announcers, who were comparing him to NBA great Steve Nash.
Woodside used his jet-fueled quickness to shred every Kansas defender Self assigned to him – the final body count was five – and score on a variety of drives, floaters and 3-point bombs. Some of the barrage was what we came to expect after four seasons. Some Woodside seemed to be saving for this special occasion.
Example: With the Bison down by six points midway through the second half, Woodside blazed between two Kansas defenders and scored a crashing layup while getting fouled by Markief Morris. With the dome crowd doing its best to split the Teflon roof, Self called timeout to soothe his rattled charges. Woodside swished the ensuing free throw for his 23rd point, which seemed like a lot at the time.
“He’s deceptively quick. He’s got that little hesitation and you think he’s going to pull back and he just throws it into all high gears,” Aldrich said. “I can see why he scored 60 in a game. He had 37 against us. Anybody who can do that in the first round, or any game, is really good.”
Woodside’s 60 came in an early season, three-overtime loss to Stephen F. Austin. It made a national splash. Woodside made the game-winning shot in The Summit League championship to vault the Bison into the NCAAs. It made a national splash. Now, he scores the second-most points in a first-round game since the NCAA expanded to 64 teams in the 1980s. Another splash.
“We haven’t played anybody harder to guard than him and that’s basically what I told him,” Self said. “He is a terrific talent.”
Woodside’s career at NDSU is finally finished. He and his mates left behind a record book filled with memories. The last one might be the most special.
Forum columnist Mike McFeely can be heard from 1-2 p.m. Monday through Friday on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or firstname.lastname@example.org. McFeely’s blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/mcfeely