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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 20 2011

Bison men's basketball home crowds to get treated to good competition during homestand

North Dakota State begins its longest men’s basketball homestand of the season tonight against Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne. After five straight losses on the road, home never looked so good.

And for the first time this season, the NDSU student body won’t have any excuses to stay away from the Bison Sports Arena. The Mastodons are the first quality home opponent while school is in session.

“They’re louder behind us,” Bison guard Freddy Coleman said of the student section. “It’s good to hear some trash talkin’ but we try and perform every night no matter who’s in the stands.”

The Bison hosted California Davis in December, but that was during finals week. NDSU also hosted the University of North Dakota, a game that was held at the Fargodome.

“We noticed when there’s a lot of people, but we usually play in gyms where there’s not a lot,” said Bison forward Eric Carlson. “We have to find our own energy most nights, but (having students back) definitely helps.”

The Bison will need all the help they can get against IPFW and Oakland University on Saturday night. Oakland leads the Summit League at 7-0 and IPFW is tied for second at 5-2.

“We look forward to it,” said NDSU head coach Saul Phillips. “We’re coming off a couple of losses, but this team is not hanging its head. I don’t sense that with this group. I think they’re eager to get back out on the court.”

Oakland will bring reigning Summit Player of the Year in Keith Benson. The 6-foot-11 center needs just one blocked shot to become the league’s all-time leader with 318.

At 12-8, the Golden Grizzlies have played more top-notch major competition than anybody, including five ranked teams and a win over Tennessee on their resume. As a league, the Summit has played 16 games against ranked teams – the most among any mid-major conferences.

NDSU is 6-0 in Fargo. That includes a weekend sweep of Oral Roberts and Centenary last time out two weeks ago. Looking ahead, the Bison host Southern Utah and Missouri-Kansas City next weekend.

That means there’s plenty of basketball at the BSA to go around the next two weeks.

“Even when our students are not here, our crowd is probably better than the other Summit League schools,” Phillips said. “But the energy the students do bring is unique.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia