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Kevin Schnepf, Published November 12 2012

Schnepf: Bison the latest victim of Hoosier Hysteria

Bloomington, Ind. - North Dakota State could not orchestrate an upset Monday night in Assembly Hall, known as the Carnegie Hall of college basketball.

Join the club, Bison, who really had nothing to be ashamed about after their 87-61 loss to No. 1-ranked Indiana.

In the illustrious 41-year history of this facility that resembles a concert hall more than a basketball arena, only 16 nonconference opponents have been able to win here. NDSU became nonconference victim No. 202 – but not one that seemed intimidated by Hoosier Hysteria.

It wasn’t Assembly Hall that beat the Bison. It was a team ranked No. 1 for a reason.

“They are a great team,” said Bison guard Mike Felt, who drained three 3-pointers to score 11 points.

The Bison, of course, unknowingly were trying pull off an Assembly Hall miracle much like Miami of Ohio did in 1983. That’s when future NBA player Ron Harper lifted Miami to a 63-57 win over Bobby Knight’s No. 9-ranked Indiana in a Nov. 26 season opener.

“But we don’t have a Ron Harper,” NDSU head coach Saul Phillips quipped in reference to one of the biggest stunners in the history of Assembly Hall.

“That has to rank right up there,” said Don Fischer, the radio voice of the Hoosiers for 40 years.

On that same 1983 night, an NDSU Division II team coached by Erv Inniger - playing with the likes of Jeff Askew and Lance Berwald - suffered a 94-77 loss to Northeastern at the Fresno State Classic.

“The change since then has been dramatic,” said Inniger, a former Hoosier player who got a standing ovation from IU fans when his name was announced before the game.

Yes indeed, a lot has changed since 1983.

Phillips was an 11-year-old “fledgling Little League baseball player” deciding basketball was his sport. Monday night, he kept reminding his players that this was just another basketball game.

But it really wasn’t.

Not when you’re playing in front of crowd nearly the size of a Bison football game at the Fargodome.

“It was a little louder than the Fargodome,” said center Marshall Bjorklund, who led the Bison with 16 points.

In a sport where only 34 percent of college basketball teams win on the road, the Bison were taking on a program that has a 487-95 home record and a 201-24 home record against nonconference teams.

They were playing beneath the mammoth banners proclaiming Indiana’s national championships in 1940, 1953, 1976, 1981 and 1987.

“I thought they handled the pressure very well because they have a very good program,” said Indiana head coach Tom Crean, who was the head man for Marquette in 2006 when NDSU beat him. “They’re good. This is not a team, this is a program.”

As expected, Goliath won this battle.

Goliath not only has Assembly Hall, it has a head coach who just last Friday got a pay raise that puts him over the $3 million mark. If he wins that coveted national championship, he’ll get a bonus of $250,00 – $115,000 more than Phillips’ base salary.

Goliath also has a 7-foot center in Cody Zeller who will probably being playing in the NBA at this time next year. It has a lineup loaded with top 10 recruits and more are coming.

Meanwhile, David gave its best (sling) shot – although Phillips and his players felt it could’ve and should’ve been a better shot.

“We’re not going into anything more hostile than this and we won’t go against anything more athletic than this,” Phillips said, before alluding to a possible NCAA Tournament berth. “If we do, will be against someone on a neutral court. Dream big.”

The Bison were Monday night. But like many others, the dream fell short.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or atkschnepf@forumcomm.com