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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 12 2012

Top-ranked Indiana defeats Bison

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – There were two centers introduced Monday night at Assembly Hall. One was coming off a week of being on magazine covers with the nickname “The Big Handsome.” The other just went to work like it was another day.

In the big handsome arena of Division I men’s basketball, No. 1-ranked Indiana University and its All-Everything center Cody Zeller flexed their athleticism enough times to defeat North Dakota State 87-61.

For NDSU, it was a good showing.

For its center, Marshall Bjorklund, it was a very good showing against what many consider will be the top overall No. 1 NBA draft pick next year.

“He’s everything he’s talked up to be,” Bjorklund said.

NDSU pulled off upsets over ranked teams Wisconsin and Marquette in recent years, but neither of those programs had a player the caliber of the 7-foot Zeller, who finished with 22 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocked shots.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever see a big guy like that run the floor like that again in my life,” said Bison guard Mike Felt.

It took a lightning surge of big plays in the second half to dispose of the Bison. Zeller, of course, had a big part in it with two buckets and a blocked shot.

Also a factor was Bjorklund going to the bench after picking up his third foul with the Bison trailing 44-35, something Bison head coach Saul Phillips thought about not doing.

“What the heck, roll the dice a bit,” said Phillips, who was then asked what he thought of Zeller. “He’s unbelievable. I’ve never seen anybody like him and hopefully won’t again. I said before, he doesn’t remind me of anybody because I have never seen a big run the floor like that.”

The Hoosiers went on a 12-3 run and it was 56-38 with 13:16 remaining.

“To be honest, I didn’t think it would hurt as much as it did,” Bjorklund said. “It doesn’t matter who’s out there, we should be able to stick with them.”

Bjorklund was no slouch, either, finishing with 16 points and 6 rebounds. At 6-8 and 240 pounds, he didn’t back down very often.

“I thought our guy took at him pretty good too,” Phillips said.

Indiana head coach Tom Crean said Zeller was good offensively, but could have played better defensively. Plus, he was sick.

“And when he’s not feeling well, I thought maybe he should have stayed home,” Crean said.

It was the sixth time an NDSU team in any sport played a Division I No. 1-ranked team other than football, with the last the softball team against UCLA and Arizona State last year.

Crean, who was the head coach at Marquette when the Bison beat them, warned his players NDSU would bring the energy and toughness.

“There’s nothing bigger than energy and toughness,” he said. “That has to be there constantly. Once we figured that out as a team, I thought we played pretty well.”

NDSU (1-1): Wright 2-6 0-0 5, Bjorklund 5-10 6-6 16, Alexander 2-10 1-3 6, Brown 3-6 0-0 7, Braun 3-8 0-0 7, Felt 4-8 0-0 11, Zastrow 1-2 0-0 3, VandenBergh 0-0 0-0 0, Kading 1-2 0-0 2, Aaberg 1-3 0-0 2, Newell 1-1 0-0 3. Totals: 23-56 7-9 61.

IU (2-0): Watford 2-6 2-2 6, Zeller 8-12 6-10 22, Hulls 4-8 0-0 11, Oladipo 3-6 0-2 7, Ferrell 1-5 2-2 4, Sheehey 1-5 6-6 9, Creek 0-3 0-0 0, Abell 5-5 1-2 14, Howard 0-0 0-0 0, Hollowell 4-8 5-6 14, Etherington 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 28-58 22-30 87.

Halftime: IU 42, NDSU 29. Total fouls: NDSU 21, IU 15. Fouled out: Brown. Rebounds: NDSU 29 (Braun 7); IU 41 (Zeller 9). 3-point goals: NDSU 8-20 (Wright 0-3, Alexander 1-3, Brown 1-2, Braun 1-3, Felt 3-6, Zastrow 1-2); IU 9-24 (Watford 0-1, Hulls 3-6, Oladipo 1-4, Ferrell 0-3, Sheehey 1-2, Abell 3-3, Hollowell 1-4). Assists: NDSU 14 (Braun 5); IU 16 (Oladipo 5). Turnovers: NDSU 16 (Alexander, Braun 5); IU 10 (Ferrell 4). A-17,145.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia