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Eric Peterson, Published December 08 2012

Bison players look to avenge last season's men's basketball loss to UND

Fargo - A five-point road loss last January still sticks with North Dakota State junior Taylor Braun.

The sting was more than losing a men’s basketball rivalry game to the University or North Dakota at Ralph Engelstad Arena.

“They were tougher than us. I think they pushed us around,” said Braun, a

6-foot-7 guard. “You can lose to a team, but when they just are tougher than you for one night, that sticks out to you. That’s not a good feeling to have, especially with a rival.”

The Bison (7-2) will have a chance at redemption at 4 p.m. today at the Fargodome. NDSU and UND will meet for the third time in three seasons. Each team has one win on its home court since the rivalry was renewed two seasons ago.

The Bison rolled to an

81-55 victory before 10,709 fans in the 2010-11 season, the last time the teams played at the Fargodome.

Last season, UND earned a 59-54 victory against NDSU before 7,169 fans in Grand Forks.

“It’s become more of a rivalry just for the fact we lost to them last year,” said Braun. “The first year, I think we all took it as something for the fans, something they can get excited about and bring back some history.

“We’ve each won one game. It’s a rivalry. We don’t like them.”

Prior to that 2010 game in the Fargo, the teams hadn’t played since 2004. Braun was a freshman for that 2010 matchup and scored five points in that game.

Bison junior forward Marshall Bjorklund, like Braun, will be playing in his third NDSU-UND game.

“They’ve had the same players, basically, and we’ve had the same players the last three years,” said Bjorklund, who scored a team-high 13 points against UND last season. “They’ve been around as long as we have. That kind of makes the rivalry even bigger.”

Bison head coach Saul Phillips admits playing against UND is not your average nonconference tilt.

Phillips said after last year’s loss he got “a lot of feedback on that” from Bison supporters.

“It matters,” Phillips said. “It matters a lot. It matters a lot to me, it matters a lot to the players in our locker room and it matters to our fan base.”

Today’s game starts a tough three-day stretch for the Bison. They travel to Minneapolis on Tuesday to play the No. 14-ranked Minnesota Gophers at Williams Arena.

Phillips likes having to play two challenging teams in a short time frame. He sees it as preparation for the Summit League tournament in March.

“You’ve got to be able to string things together in close quarters if you are going to win a tournament at the end of the year,” Phillips said. “You’re building to a crescendo with all of it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com