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Steve King / Special to The Forum, Published February 22 2013

Akron beats NDSU to extend winning streak to 18 games

AKRON, Ohio – It was a BracketBusters game, but what the North Dakota State men’s basketball team needed to bust Friday night against Akron was the lid that seemed to be on the basket at James A. Rhodes Arena.

It was closed shut for over half the game.

The Bison couldn’t find their shooting range at all in the first half and at the start of the second half, and as a result got so far behind that they couldn’t catch up.

To their credit, they came back to make a game out of it, but in the end, the streaking Zips (22-4) pulled away again to win 68-53, extending their string of consecutive victories to 18, which ties Kansas for the longest streak in the nation this year.

The Bison, who have split their last 10 games to fall to 20-8, hit just 28.6 percent of their shots (8 of 28) in the first half in falling behind 37-23, and but 31.3 percent (21 of 67) for the game. They went the last 6 minutes, 35 seconds of the first half and the first 3:16 of the second half – a total of 9:51 – without a field goal. That enabled Akron to go ahead by 20, 45-25, three minutes into the second half. At that point, the game, in essence, was over.

“Akron is good, guys. They’re really good,” Bison head coach Saul Phillips said. “You can’t go on the road and shoot 30 percent against a team like that – a team that has won 18 in a row – and expect to win.”

But there was a reason for at least part of the Bison’s shooting problem – 7-foot- senior Zips center Zeke Marshall. He held 6-8 junior center Marshall Bjorklund to just two points on 1 of 6 shooting. Marshall scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds.

“Marshall (Bjorklund) has played against a lot of good centers,” Phillips said. “He played against Cody Zeller of Indiana. There hasn’t been a team that could shut him down, and Zeke did that.

“I knew Zeke would give us problems, but I wasn’t expecting a 1 of 6 night.”

Or as Zips coach Keith Dambrot pointed out, “I thought Zeke dominated the game.”

Lawrence Alexander shot well, going 8 of 16 for a game-high 19 points.

“Lawrence is a high-level point guard,” Phillips said. “I thought he single-handedly kept us in the game.”

The other Bison who had some success was guard Mike Felt, who scored 15 points on 5 of 12 shooting. Take those two players out of the lineup, and the Bison were just 8 of 39 from the floor.

To their credit, though, the Bison came storming back, cutting the lead to 47-41 on a layup by Chris Kading with 7:35 left.

“We got it to six, but we had just dug ourselves too big of a hole,” Phillips said.

Akron finished the game with a 21-12 run to seal the deal.

But there is help coming. Phillips said that 6-7 swingman Taylor Braun, the Bison’s leading scorer with a 15.2 average, could be set to return next Tuesday night when Utah Valley visits. He’s missed the last 10 games with a broken bone in his foot suffered Jan. 12 against Oakland, which explains why the Bison have been just .500 (5-5) in that span.

“He’s going to have an X-ray to see if he’s healed,” Phillips said. “And if the X-ray doesn’t come out the way we want it, we’re going to keep taking it until we get the result we want. We need him back.”

Phillips was just joking – more or less. But the point was made.

It was seconded by Felt.

“It will mean so much for us to get him back,” he said. “It will open up things down low for Marshall.”

But maybe not against Zeke Marshall – at least on this night.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE (20-8): Alexander 8-16 2-4 19, Brown 1-8 0-0 2, VandenBergh 0-3 0-0 0, Wright 2-11 0-1 5, Bjorklund 1-6 0-0 2, Newell 0-1 0-0 0, Felt 5-12 2-2 15, Zastrow 0-1 0-0 0, Mauch 0-1 0-0 0, Kading 2-5 0-0 4, Aaberg 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 21-67 6-9 53.

AKRON (22-4): Treadwell 4-10 3-11 11, Harney 5-8 1-3 13, Abreu 2-7 5-7 10, McAdams 2-5 0-0 6, Marshall 5-8 4-5 14, Ibitayo 2-3 1-2 5, Betancourt 1-3 0-0 2, Kretzer 3-5 0-0 7, Gilliam 0-3 0-0 0, Forsythe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-52 14-28 68.

Halftime: Akron 37-23. 3-Point Goals:N. Dakota St. 5-24 (Felt 3-9, Wright 1-5, Alexander 1-5, Mauch 0-1, Zastrow 0-1, VandenBergh 0-3), Akron 6-19 (Harney 2-3, McAdams 2-5, Kretzer 1-3, Abreu 1-5, Ibitayo 0-1, Gilliam 0-2). Fouled Out: Wright. Rebounds: N. Dakota St. 36 (Wright 9), Akron 43 (Treadwell 14). Assists: N. Dakota St. 4 (Alexander 2), Akron 12 (Abreu, Betancourt 3). Total Fouls: N. Dakota St. 23, Akron 13. Technical:Marshall. A: 4,474.