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Eric Peterson, Published February 02 2013

Bison men power past South Dakota for Summit victory

FARGO – North Dakota State completed an 80-minute stretch of lockdown defense Saturday night at the Bison Sports Arena.

“It’s as good as we’ve played defensively for two consecutive games since we’ve been Division I,” Bison head coach Saul Phillips said.

NDSU held the University of South Dakota to 15 points in the first half and used that stellar early defense to fuel a 65-46 victory in Summit League men’s basketball before 3,062 fans.

“They are a very, very good defensive team,” South Dakota head coach Dave Boots said.

The Bison have allowed 80 over the past two games, including a 71-34 home victory against Missouri-Kansas City on Thursday. Those 34 points tied a program record for the least points allowed against a four-year school since 1950.

“The defense will always be there,” said Bison junior TrayVonn Wright, who scored a team-high 17 points on 8-for-12 shooting from the field.

The Bison (18-5, 9-2 Summit) have won two consecutive games and are tied with Western Illinois and South Dakota State for first place in the conference. NDSU has surpassed last season’s win total with seven games remaining in the regular season.

“It’s great,” Phillips said. “We have bigger goals than that.”

The 6-foot-7 Wright grabbed seven rebounds, blocked two shots and had two steals to go along with his game-high point total.

“TrayVonn was brilliant,” Phillips said.

Wright played well despite dealing with a foot injury. He strained a muscle in his foot the previous weekend against SDSU. Wright estimates he’s at around 90 percent of full health.

“It’s the landing part that hurts more,” Wright said. “When the adrenaline is flowing you don’t think about it until you go back to the bench.”

The Bison got an offensive lift from freshman Brett VandenBergh, who was making his second career start. The 6-foot-5 forward scored a career-high 14 points with 12 of those coming in the second half. VandenBergh made 4 of 5 shots from 3-point range after halftime.

“The hoop has been getting bigger and bigger for me all year,” said VandenBergh, who was slowed early in the season having to deal with a concussion and a bout with mono.

VandenBergh sparked a 41-point second half for the Bison, who led by as many as 23 points after halftime. NDSU shot 58 percent (15 of 26) from the field in the second half to pull away from the Coyotes. South Dakota made it a point to collapse on Bison post Marshall Bjorklund, but VandenBergh made the Coyotes pay from the perimeter.

“We had to give something up,” Boots said. “We were just so consumed with trying to play inside that we couldn’t get anyone out to him.”

The Bison scored just one field goal in the opening six minutes, but trailed by only five points after that cold stretch due to their defense.

“When we start slow offensively, we can stay in the game on defense,” Wright said.

The Bison surged into the lead for good with a 12-2 run during the middle section of the first half. Wright sparked the rally with seven points in that span, including a spectacular two-handed tip dunk. Wright capped spree with a 3-pointer from the right wing that gave NDSU a 14-9 lead with 8 minutes, 19 seconds to play in the first half. The Bison held a 24-15 halftime lead with South Dakota shooting 35 percent (7 of 20) from the field in the opening 20 minutes.

“Everybody is doing their jobs,” Wright said. “We’re playing as a team.”

USD (8-15, 4-7 Summit): Gruis 5-7 4-4 14, Myles 3-10 1-2 8, Bos 6-12 2-2 16, Kasperbauer 0-2 1-2 1, Rowson 1-3 0-2 2, Boots 1-5 0-0 2, Flack 0-1 0-0 0, Robertson 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 17-43 8-12 46.

NDSU (18-5, 9-2): VandenBergh 5-7 0-0 14, Wright 8-12 0-0 17, Bjorklund 2-3 2-2 6, Alexander 1-7 0-0 2, Brown 3-7 4-4 10, Newell 0-0 0-0 0, Felt 2-7 0-0 6, Zastrow 2-3 0-0 6, Mauch 0-1 0-0 0, Kading 2-2 0-0 4, Aaberg 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-49 6-6 65.

Half: NDSU 24, NDSU 15. 3-point goals: USD 4-13 (Myles 1-3, Bos 2-5, Kasperbauer 0-1, Boots 0-2, Robertson 1-2), NDSU 9-24 (VandenBergh 4-6, Wright 1-3, Alexander 0-4, Brown 0-2, Felt 2-6, Zastrow 2-2, Mauch 0-1). Total fouls: USD 12, NDSU 14. Rebounds: USD 24 (three players with 4), NDSU 27 (Bjorklund 9). Assists: USD 8 (Kasperbauer 3), NDSU 17 (Alexander 8). Steals: USD 5 (Myles 2), NDSU 5 (Wright 2). Turnovers: USD 14 (Gruis 4), NDSU 10 (Brown 5). A-3,062.

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

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