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Kevin Schnepf, Eric Peterson and Wayne Nelson, Published December 12 2010

UND-NDSU basketball notebook: Players get up to speed with rivalry

North Dakota State men’s basketball players got to hear all the tales and lore of the Bison-Sioux rivalry Friday night – when they had dinner with former players.

“It was pretty special hearing the UND and NDSU moments they experienced,” said Bison senior Freddy Coleman. “We kind of knew after that what we stepping into a little bit. It was a fun environment.”

Coleman and his teammates, playing the Sioux for the first time Saturday night, had plenty of fun when it used a 20-2 run to open the second half and claim an 88-51 victory before 10,709 fans at the Fargodome.

The last time NDSU and UND played each other in basketball was in 2004. Bison head coach Saul Phillips was still an assistant at the University of Wisconsin then. Coleman, who scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, was in high school in St. Paul. Michael Tveidt, who scored 23 points, was in high school in Pierre, S.D.

So did the renewal of a century-long rivalry affect NDSU’s sluggish play in the first half, when the score was tied 33-33.

“Maybe a little bit,” Tveidt said. “It’s not like we have 10,700 people show up for every game. Some of our players might have been starry-eyed a little bit.”

The Bison ended up shooting 70 percent in the second half.

“We just settled down and made it a basketball game rather than an event,” Bison head coach Saul Phillips said.

Another rivalry win

It was just last week at this time when NDSU beat another rival. The Bison claimed an 82-75 win at South Dakota State.

“We’ve just gone through two pretty emotional weeks,” said Phillips, whose team improved to 6-3 overall.

With last week’s win over SDSU, the Bison now have a nine-game winning streak against the Jackrabbits. With Saturday night’s win, the Bison snapped a one-game losing streak to the Sioux – a 76-73 overtime loss in Grand Forks.

So how did playing a Summit League game against rival SDSU compare to playing its first game against rival UND?

“The only difference was the crowd,” Tveidt said. “We pretty much prepare for every game the same way. The crowd was noisier for this one … that’s about the only thing we can take from it.”

The Bison now prepare for Thursday’s home game in the Bison Sports Arena against Cal-Davis.

Jones wants his team

to look like Bison

UND head coach Brian Jones caught a glimpse of what he wants his program to look like as his team transitions into Division I.

All he had to do was look on the Fargodome floor to see Bison seniors Michael Tveidt and Freddy Coleman. Both players are in their fifth years with NDSU.

“We’re trying to build our program that way through redshirting guys,” Jones said. “Guys at our level (mid-major), they are led by seniors. That senior leadership it showed up tonight. There is no question.”

The Sioux also have two seniors on their roster, Derek Benter and Chris Clausen. Benter is a fifth-year senior and Clause in a junior college transfer.

Phillips applauds Sioux

Philips knows first-hand what it’s like to take a men’s basketball team through the Division I transition.

Phillips has seen the Sioux play on film. He’s been impressed, knowing what UND is going through.

That’s why UND’s first-half performance didn’t surprise Phillips.

“I didn’t expect anything different,” Phillips said. “They really took good care of the basketball in the first half.

But he expected his two seniors, Tveidt and Coleman, to step up in the second half. And they did.

The two have been involved in a number of big games during their Bison careers.

“Look at them; they’re both bald. They’re old, like me,” Phillips said of his two seniors.

Wilmer’s big game

The big surprise for UND was the play of 6-foot-11 sophomore Mitch Wilmer, who scored a career-high 10 points in 25 minutes. Before the game, Wilmer had only 17 career points.

“He’s still learning on the offensive side of things,” UND coach Brian Jones said. “He’s fine defensively. His offense is starting to catch up to his defense. It was nice to seem him be aggressive out there. He was extremely poised.”

Wilmer’s first-half play was a big reason for UND opening a five-point lead.

Next year’s game

The Sioux and Bison are scheduled to play next year but the site of the game hasn’t been decided.

It will be in Grand Forks, either at the Alerus Center or Ralph Engelstad Arena.

A lot depends on UND’s hockey schedule.

But both coaches emphasized they want to keep the series going beyond next year.

“North Dakota is a pretty good sports state,” Phillips said. “Let’s celebrate that. Let’s embrace it. That was a blast.”