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Forum staff reports, Published February 07 2013

Bison men fall on the road at Oakland (Mich.)

ROCHESTER, Mich. – There is never a sure thing when playing in Oakland University’s O’Rena. Just ask the North Dakota State men’s basketball team.

Oakland scored the game’s final seven points in the last two minutes to pull out a 66-63 win over the Bison Thursday night before 2,117 fans.

“We thought the game was in our hands,” said point guard Lawrence Alexander after the loss that sent the Bison from a three-way tie for first place to third in the Summit League.

The Bison used an 8-0 run to build 63-59 lead with just over two minutes remaining. But they were unable to score again, watching two turnovers turn into four points for Oakland.

It was a typical race to the finish when these two teams play in the O’Rena. The six times they have played here, the average margin of victory has been three points – with Oakland winning five of those games.

“It’s gut wrenching but we’re going to have to find a way to regroup,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips, whose team will try to keep its conference title hopes alive with a win at Fort Wayne on Saturday.

“Three losses can still win it, four can’t. That’s our motivation right there.”

The Bison, 18-6 overall and 9-3 in the Summit, had the ball and a 63-62 lead with 37 seconds left. That’s when Trayvonn Wright got stripped from behind in the free throw lane – a turnover that led to a Duke Mondy jumper that gave Oakland a 64-63 lead.

Seconds later, Mike Felt missed a 3-pointer from the corner.

“We had a really good look but it rimmed in and out,” Phillips said.

Wright rebounded the missed shot but was whistled for traveling as he tumbled to the floor. That led to two Mondy free throws that gave Oakland its 66-63 lead with six seconds remaining.

“Trayvonn just couldn’t keep his balance when he came down with that rebound,” said Phillips, who saw his team fall behind 39-29 early in the second half. “All of a sudden we are digging out of a hole and chasing for the rest of the game.”

Alexander, a sophomore from Peoria, Ill., had a season-high 21 points – 15 coming in the second half. Wright had 12 points and 13 rebounds to produce his third double-double of the season.

“We got a first-team all-conference performance from Lawrence Alexander tonight,” Phillips said. “He was just relentless attacking the basketball. He was unbelievable.”

Oakland was led by Travis Bader’s 23 points and Mondy’s 16. Their performances helped Oakland head coach Greg Kampe earned his 500th career win.

“You have to credit Oakland, they are a good defensive team,” Alexander said. “Our goal is still to be conference champs. We have to come out Saturday and hopefully get a split.”

For the sixth straight game, NDSU was playing without its leading scorer Taylor Braun. He injured his foot in NDSU’s 73-65 home win over Oakland last month and is expected to be back in time for next month’s Summit League tournament.

NDSU (18-6, 9-3 Summit): VandenBergh 3-4 0-0 8, Wright 3-13 4-4 12, Bjorklund 6-11 0-1 12, Alexander 8-13 3-7 21, Brown 2-4 0-0 4, Felt 2-5 0-0 6, Zastrow 0-2 0-0 0, Kading 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 7-12 63.

OU (12-13, 7-4 Summit): Williams 1-4 0-0 2, Valentine 3-3 3-5 10, Petros 1-4 2-7 4, Bader 8-20 2-2 23, Bass 3-5 3-3 11, Mondy 6-14 4-4 16, Asbury 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 14-21 66.

Halftime: OU 35, NDSU 26. 3-point goals: NDSU 8-23 (Alexander 2-3, VandenBergh 2-3, Felt 2-5, Wright 2-9, Brown 0-1, Zastrow 0-2), OU 8-27 (Bader 5-14, Bass 2-4, Valentine 1-1, Asbury 0-1, Williams 0-3, Mondy 0-4). Total fouls: NDSU 16, OU 17. Rebounds: NDSU 36 (Wright 13), OU 28 (Petros, Valentine 6). Assists: NDSU 13 (Alexander 7), OU 14 (Valentine 5). Turnovers: NDSU 11 (Bjorklund 4), OU 6 (Petros 2). A: 2,117.