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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 17 2012

Kolpack: Hot series ends cold for Bison

Grand Forks - Dave Gunther was introduced at halftime, and the urge was to ask him if we could move the entire North Dakota State and University of North Dakota operation to Hyslop. Now that was intensity, especially when the former UND coach roamed the sidelines.

That’s not the way of the world anymore for this series. Not nicknames. Not calling the other team “blowhards.”

The litmus test came with 1 minute, 4 seconds left in the first half. That’s when NDSU’s Taylor Braun and UND’s Patrick Mitchell were each assessed a technical foul for a brief skirmish.

“That was just two guys going at it, nobody throwing punches,” said NDSU head coach Saul Phillips. “That was just two guys playing basketball.”

It set off the Sioux-you-know-what from some Bison fans. It was followed with an announcement from the public address about fan behavior. That one minute was about it for any kind of shenanigans.

It was followed up with a “let’s play football” chant from the NDSU section. The UND fans drowned that with “let’s play hockey.”

There wasn’t much debate there: NDSU has the better football team and UND has the better and only hockey team.

On Tuesday, UND had the better men’s basketball team.

The 59-54 win ended with fans rushing the court. Phillips, by the way, was caught in the middle of it, and guess what: He didn’t get mugged, punched or verbally abused.

“Not one bad thing was said by anybody,” he said. “There are a lot of people in and around this rivalry that assume the worst. … I do think you’re dealing with a fringe 1 percent when you talk about people way on the ends of this. A lot of people handled this pretty good including our players and their players.”

The loss was disappointing, he said, because of what it meant for the Bison fan base.

“It makes it harder to take,” Phillips said.

Harder, yes. But here’s the bigger concern for NDSU: It is showing signs of a midseason scoring slump. The 33 percent shooting on Tuesday made it five halves in the last six when the shots weren’t dropping.

The Bison shot 39 percent in edging Missouri-Kansas City last Thursday. They hit 42 percent in the first half against South Dakota on Saturday. The only breakthrough was 56 percent in the second against the Coyotes.

It’s like the .300 hitter in baseball stuck in a 1-for-12 slide, and that’s not promising with South Dakota State on deck on Saturday.

“I think most of the time we were getting shots we like,” said Bison guard Mike Felt. “We just need to get back to work and try to bounce back for SDSU.”

The numbers against UND were not pretty. Braun was 2 of 9. Dylan Hale 1 of 7. TrayVonn Wright 3 of 8. Felt 4 of 12. Only Marshall Bjorklund was a consistent offensive presence with his 5 of 10 from the field.

Give these teams props for trying to restore the consistency of the series. It needs to be played, but the rules of behavior have changed.

For UND head coach Brian Jones, it was nice to be concerned about holding NDSU to 33 percent shooting – and not much else.

“It’s a different time,” he said. “With the league scenario and logo, it was a breath of fresh air to put a product out there and enjoy the game and not worry about things you can’t control.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia