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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 16 2013

Bison men's basketball team picks up win No. 20

FARGO – It hasn’t been the easiest of roads lately for the North Dakota State men’s basketball team, but Saturday night made for a nice relaxing drive on 20 Victory Lane.

The stress-free 75-39 victory over Indiana Purdue-Indianapolis was the 20th win of the season, a milestone last reached in 2008-09, when the 26 season wins included an NCAA tournament berth. It was the 13th time in school history NDSU has reached 20 victories.

“And how many years have we been playing hoops here?” said NDSU head coach Saul Phillips. “This is a pretty cool deal, and this is pretty special team. Yeah, we want to win a championship in the regular season, but you better at least enjoy the process and say good things are happening here.”

The Bison left the Bison Sports Arena crowd of 2,948 with a 20-7 record with one Summit League game and two nonconference games remaining, including an ESPN BracketBuster tilt at the University of Akron.

The frowns that exited the BSA on Thursday after a 49-36 loss that set an NDSU arena record for fewest points scored were replaced by smiles. It was IUPUI that struggled to score in a game that was decided in the first half.

The Jaguars set a school record for fewest points scored. Moreover, NDSU’s four turnovers tied a Division I low.

“I would say our defense was A-plus tonight,” said Bison guard Kory Brown. “Four turnovers? That was one of the cleanest games we’ve had.

IUPUI, which has struggled with injuries this season, was a distinctly different defensive team than Western Illinois. Thursday’s game essentially eliminated the Bison from a possible No. 1 tournament seed. NDSU hit just two jump shots all game.

“Thursday was a big game for us, and we came out on the bad side,” said Bison guard Lawrence Alexander. “We tried not to let Western beat us twice, by being down in the dumps and have a bad game tonight.”

Mission accomplished against the Jaguars, who had trouble getting back in time to stop NDSU from good transition looks. It took just seven minutes for the Bison to build a double-digit lead with three uncontested slam dunks doing the damage.

It was 30-12 on the fifth dunk of the half, a breakaway by Chris Kading.

Brown and center Marshall Bjorklund led the balanced Bison with 12 points each. Nine players had at least five points.

On defense, IUPUI shot 33 percent.

“No rational human being can question this group’s effort anytime they’ve stepped on the floor.” Phillips said. “The defense has been there every night. We have struggles, we have flaws, but we play hard.”

IUPUI (6-22, 1-13 Summit): Gibbs 1-6 1-2 3, Patton 3-9 0-0 6, Rice 3-11 1-2 8, Esposito 0-4 0-0 0, Hubert 2-4 0-0 6, Gaines 6-9 1-2 14, Shanklin 0-3 0-0 0, Kitcoff 0-2 0-0 0, Rose 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 16-49 3-6 39.

NDSU (20-7, 11-4 Summit): VandenBergh 2-6 0-0 5, Wright 1-8 0-0 5, Bjorklund 5-7 2-2 12, Alexander 3-5 3-3 10, Brown 5-8 2-3 12, Felt 4-7 1-1 9, Zastrow 3-6 0-0 8, Kading 3-6 0-0 6, Aaberg 3-5 0-0 6, Newell 1-1 0-0 2, Mauch 0-5 0-0 0. Totals: 31-63 8-9 75.

Halftime: NDSU 41, IUPUI 19. Total fouls: IUPUI 9, NDSU 11. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: IUPUI 28 (Esposito 8); NDSU 38 (Aaberg 8). 3-point goals: IUPUI 4-13 (Gibbs 1-2, Rice 1-4, Esposito 0-2, Hubert 2-3, Gaines 1-1, Shanklin 0-2, Kitcoff 0-1); NDSU 5-19 (VandenBergh 1-3, Wright 1-3, Brown 0-1, Felt 0-3, Zastrow 2-4, Mauch 0-3, Alexander 1-2). Assists: IUPUI 7 (Esposito 2); NDSU 15 (Alexander 4). Turnovers: IUPUI 15 (Gibbs 6); NDSU 4 (Wright 2). A-2,948.

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