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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 22 2011

Oakland men have too many weapons for Bison in Summit basketball

FARGO - For the first time this season, there was heat in the Bison Sports Arena kitchen. A season high in both attendance and intensity saw why Oakland University (Mich.) is the top chef in the Summit League.

The Grizzlies have all the utensils.

They had an answer for everything North Dakota State threw at them Saturday night, taking an 83-76 victory in front of 3,761 fans. Need points? The top seven players had at least six points led by reserve guard Larry Wright’s 20. Need blocked shots and steals? Center Keith Benson had five and three respectively in addition to his 10 rebounds. Need a 3-pointer? Guard Travis Bader had a key four-point play midway in the second half and Wright hit the biggest trey that gave the Grizzlies a 76-69 lead with 1:33 remaining.

Need an NBA draft pick? They have that prospect, too, in the 6-foot-11 Benson.

It was a valiant effort by the Bison in defeat, although 1 of 14 from 3-point range -- and this is a team that spent most of the season near the top in 3-point shooting percentage in the country -- was costly.

NDSU’s best stretch was nine straight points early in the first half that gave the Bison a 15-12 advantage, a lead they held for a few minutes. But the Grizzlies forged ahead for a 34-28 halftime lead and held the upper hand the rest of the way.

It wasn’t easy, though.

Down 43-32 in the first three minutes of the second half, a quick three straight hoops prevented the Grizzlies from running away. With Benson playing cautious defense with three fouls, Bison center Marshall Bjorklund got loose for a couple hoops that started a 12-2 run.

Bjorklund was strong all night finishing with 21 points and eight rebounds. The true freshman wasn’t afraid to attack Benson, especially after he picked up his fourth foul with 6:31 remaining and had the best game of his young career. In the last several minutes, it was Benson vs. Bjorklund.

Bjorklund’s three-point play after a rebound got the Bison within 68-67 with 3:25 left. But Benson answered with a three-point play of his own at 2:57.

Bjorklund got free again on the other end and it was 71-69, but Benson answered with two free throws for a four-point cushion, again.