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Kevin Schnepf, Published December 09 2012

Schnepf: Dome not exactly electric for basketball rivalry game

Fargo - There must have been a few hangovers among the 5,168 fans scattered amongst the Fargodome Sunday afternoon.

It’s the only logical explanation why the place was so quiet during a rivalry that once generated more electricity than Thomas Edison. Less than 10 hours after NDSU’s football team lit up the dome with its quarterfinal playoff win, the Bison men’s basketball team claimed a ho-hum 72-52 win over rival North Dakota.

“There must have been too many celebrations after the football game,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing. But it was just kind of laid back in there today.”

It didn’t have the feeling of a rivalry that dates back to 1905. The dome didn’t have the buzz it had two years ago when more than 10,000 fans watched a rivalry renewed after a six-year hiatus.

Sunday, the school’s two presidents sat next to each other exchanging laughter. One of the loudest cheers came when fans were screaming to win a bucket of Buffalo Wild Wings.

And believe it or not, there was not one derogatory Sioux chant.

The fans may not have exemplified a rivalry. But the Bison players, still aching from last year’s 59-54 loss in Grand Forks, played like it was a rivalry.

“Did you see the way we were flying around out there?” said Phillips, whose team’s switching man-to-man defense bottled up UND for most of the game. “From our perspective, it felt like a rivalry. I thought our guys’ effort in a stale environment was super.”

The Bison, now sporting an impressive 8-2 record, will need that effort and much more Tuesday night when it plays No. 14-ranked Minnesota.

You can bet there will be 10,000 fans in Williams Arena. And you can bet it will be much louder than the Fargodome was Sunday.

“We can all agree if we can play a full 40 minutes, we can give them a game,” said Bison post Marshall Bjorklund, who was quick to mention a poor second half that cost them a loss at top-ranked Indiana last month. “Indiana shoved it down our throats the second half.”

The Gophers certainly have that capability against the Bison – who have yet to win at Williams Arena. Minnesota posted a 71-57 win at USC Saturday night, giving Tubby Smith his 500th coaching victory.

Their only loss this season is an 89-71 setback to No. 2-ranked Duke.

“I’ve got them in my top 10,” said Phillips, who has a vote in the USA Today Coaches poll. “If we’re not sharp, we won’t be around for very long.”

It’s too bad the Bison couldn’t wear the new yellow uniforms they displayed Sunday. Like the football team, yellow seems to bring good luck.

“Obviously, they’ve got a lot going on here with their football and basketball,” said UND head coach Brian Jones, whose injury-plagued team now has a 1-6 record. “There is a lot of positive buzz going on here right now.”

There just wasn’t that much buzz on Sunday, prompting Phillips to suggest this rivalry game could return to the Bison Sports Arena.

“If we are going to get 5,000, let’s put 5,000 in the BSA and crank up the noise,” Phillips said, offering an optimistic outlook for the future of this rivalry. “Wouldn’t it be great if this was a rivalry of two conference contenders sometime down the road?”

For now, Phillips jokingly suggested to institute a bed check on the NDSU football fans.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com