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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 12 2013

Wright leads Bison men over Oakland to improve to 15-3

FARGO – A 10-minute power outage at the scorer’s table and a faulty microphone that gave North Dakota State football team captain Grant Olson more problems than an All-American running back only reaffirmed the obvious Saturday: The Bison Sports Arena is falling apart.

The men’s basketball team that plays in it, however, is a rebuilt machine operating at full throttle.

Forward TrayVonn Wright scored 20 points and blocked five shots to spark a 73-65 victory over Oakland (Mich.) before 3,390 fans. The Bison maintained first place pace in the Summit League at 6-0 and moved to 15-3 overall.

Not all was positive for the Bison, however. Leading scorer Taylor Braun suffered a right foot injury with 10 minutes left in the game and was taken to a local hospital for X-rays later Saturday night.

“Whether it’s good, middle or indifferent, we’ll handle it like men and continue to play,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips.

This season is turning into a memorable one, although Phillips wondered aloud if his team is really enjoying it. There were 19 turnovers and a 10 of 22 free-throw shooting performance that didn’t’ sit well with them.

“We’re 15-3, one of the top 45 in the nation,” Phillips said, referring to the RPI power rankings. “We’re doing something phenomenal. It’s a great moment. I hope our brother (Braun) can keep playing with us, but if he can’t, we’ll go on. We’re a good team. I’m ecstatic with this group.”

So ecstatic that he said he would coach this team for free.

That may be stretching it.

“But you can tell there’s a dramatic change from last year,” said center Marshall Bjorklund, the nation’s leader in field-goal percentage who hit all seven of his field-goal attempts. “Guys were upset with themselves but we still won.”

It was 40-28 when the champion Division I Football Championship Subdivision Bison brought the title trophy to the north end of the court at halftime. Olson, after a few attempts with a microphone, thanked the fans “who rocked Frisco.”

On the court, Wright rocked the Grizzlies, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. At one point, NDSU was 9 of 14 from beyond the arc to open a lead it never relinquished.

Wright finished 8 of 11 from the field and also added three assists.

“How about that Wright kid tonight, huh?” said Oakland head coach Greg Kampe. “He made a lot of tough shots. Wright was the guy.”

NDSU now may face the task of replacing the 15.5 points and 5.2 rebounds a game Braun brought to the court. More than that, they’ll need to find an answer to his veteran presence.

“He’s our go-to guy most of the time,” Wright said, “but we can have other people step up. We’re just going to keep playing games. Without Taylor, we should be all right.”

NDSU took its largest lead on a free throw by Lawrence Alexander to open the second half, which made it 41-28. But led by guards Ryan Bass and Travis Bader, the Grizzlies steadily cut into the deficit.

It was 52-48 when Braun’s steal turned into a driving layup. He was fouled, but NDSU got the rebound off his missed free throw and Braun made it hurt with a 3-pointer.

“Play of the game was Braun’s steal,” Kampe said. “We score there and that might have been the play to get us over. He buried the 3 – a five-point play. That was the dagger we couldn’t come back from.”

It was part of a spurt that restored NDSU’s 13-point advantage, this time at 63-50 with 8:09 remaining. And the BSA even made it to the end of game with power.

“That was a little weird,” Wright said. “It was like a long time out.”

OU (7-12, 2-3 Summit): Valentine 2-4 0-1 4, Petros 2-8 2-3 6, Bader 8-20 0-0 21, Mondy 3-8 6-6 12, Bass 9-15 0-0 22, Carter 0-1 0-0 0, Poches 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 24-56 8-10 73.

NDSU (15-3, 6-0 Summit): Wright 8-11 0-0 20, Bjorklund 7-7 1-5 15, Alexander 5-11 6-8 19, Brown 0-3 1-4 1, Braun 4-4 0-1 11, Felt 0-4 0-0 0, VandenBergh 1-1 0-0 3, Kading 1-2 2-4 4. Totals: 26-43 10-22 73.

Halftime: NDSU 40, OU 28. Total fouls: OU 15, NDSU 14. Fouled out: Bader. Rebounds: OU 28 (Petros 11); NDSU 31 (Alexander 8). 3-point goals: OU 9-22 (Bader 5-13, Bass 4-8, Mondy 0-1); NDSU 11-20 (Wright 4-6, Alexander 3-6, Braun 3-3, Felt 0-4, VandenBergh 1-1). Assists: OU 17 (Mondy 12); NDSU 20 (Alexander, Brown 5). Turnovers: OU 12 (Bader 4): NDSU 19 (Alexander 9). A-3,390.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia