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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 27 2011

Bison men's basketball teams needs some victories soon: NDSU has lost seven of its last nine games

The losses are beginning to pile up like snowbanks on the streets of Fargo, and that’s not a good thing this winter. But the Summit League men’s basketball season is just at the halfway point and there’s still time for North Dakota State to thaw out.

It has to start soon, however, like tonight when the Bison host Southern Utah at the Bison Sports Arena. NDSU has dropped seven of nine after an impressive four-game win streak that included victories over South Dakota State, North Dakota and California Davis.

“Everyone is pretty upset at how things are going,” said Bison center Marshall Bjorklund, “but we can’t get too down just like you can’t get too high when you’re winning.”

The Bison are coming off being swept at home against Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne and Oakland University (Mich.).

Against IPFW, poor free-throw shooting down the stretch was costly. Against the Grizzlies, the Bison were 1 of 14 from 3-point range, an uncharacteristic performance from that range for a team that came in hitting at almost a 40 percent clip.

“It’s been a couple little things like getting a couple of stops at the end of a game or making a couple of plays at the end of a game,” said guard Nate Zastrow.

Head coach Saul Phillips says his team’s confidence is still there. All seven losses came down to the final five minutes and four of the defeats were by four points or less.

NDSU had IPFW down by 18 points in the first half, but faltered as the game went along. The Oakland game was a one- or two-possession difference until the final minute.

There is no magic coaching formula for breaking a losing streak, Phillips said. It’s a matter of pressing ahead.

“Keep grinding,” he said. “Keep teaching. Unfortunately, there’s no other way as far as I know. It hasn’t been hard to keep the kids’ heads up because they can see it’s been one or two plays that have made the difference.”

Phillips has tweaked his lineup more than any other year, he said, in an effort to find the right combination. It’s not so noticeable in the starting five, but more in the rotation once a game gets going.

“You have to come out every night,” Bjorklund said. “You can’t come out and not be ready to play like we did a couple of times.”

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