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Kevin Schnepf, Published January 24 2013

Schnepf: Bison don't dwell on Braun's injury

Fargo - The replay may speak volumes, but North Dakota State’s men’s basketball players have more or less hit the mute button.

The video in question shows Taylor Braun, NDSU’s leading scorer, landing on a Midcontinent TV cameraman underneath the basket in a game played two weeks ago in the Bison Sports Arena. Braun has since undergone surgery on his right foot and isn’t expected back in the lineup until – at the earliest – the March 2 final regular-season game at Nebraska-Omaha.

Bison coaches and players could have easily cried foul on the cameraman, who was shown wheeling his chair just a few feet from the baseline. But they didn’t.

In fact, the mindset of the Bison has been pretty simple: They still have a chance to produce one of the school’s best seasons during its eight years at the Division I level. Even without Braun.

“There is no ‘woe is me’ on this team,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “Even Taylor is upset about all the talk that we can’t win without him. Our guys know we still have a lot to play for here. There is certainly going to be some pretty high drama coming up in the next few weeks.”

And it all starts Saturday, when the Braun-less Bison travel to rival South Dakota State. NDSU, which four weeks ago beat the Jacks at home 65-62, can solidify its first-place standing in the Summit League with a win.

“It will take everything we’ve got,” Phillips said.

Just like it did last weekend when the Bison played without Braun for the first time in games at Indiana Purdue-Indianapolis and Western Illinois – the team tied with the Bison for first place.

It was as if the Bison players got mad, rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to hammer IUPUI 78-40. The Bison had seven possessions in which the ball did not touch the floor once.

“That kind of passing makes a coach want to cry with happiness,” Phillips said.

That attitude seemed to carry over two days later when the Bison built a 20-13 halftime lead at Western Illinois. They ended up losing 50-42 – after committing four straight turnovers midway through the second half, shooting only 34 percent and playing much of the game without freshman starter Kory Brown – who managed to play two four-minute spurts when he wasn’t vomiting.

“That would’ve been a tough game had we had everybody playing,” Phillips said. “Western Illinois held serve on its home court. It was a tough road loss against a good team. It happens.”

It certainly does. Look what happened this week to these big boys. No. 1 Duke lost at Miami 90-63. No. 5 Louisville lost at Villanova 73-64. No. 9 Butler lost at LaSalle 54-53. No. 12 Minnesota lost at Northwestern 55-48. No. 17 Creighton lost at Drake 74-69.

Saturday, the Bison will try to continue that road-win trend. But it won’t come easy in Frost Arena – where the Jacks have won 25 straight games, the third-best home streak in the country behind Syracuse (34) and Kansas (31).

“We’ll keep doing this by committee,” Phillips said, referring to Braun’s absence. “There’s not an ounce of selfishness on this team. That speaks volumes.”

More than any replay of Braun’s injury.

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

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com