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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 26 2013

NDSU pulls away from Utah Valley for nonconference men's basketball win

FARGO – North Dakota State honored its seniors and welcomed back its leading scorer Tuesday night. It wasn’t a smooth return for Taylor Braun, but Nate Zastrow made his last regular-season game at the Bison Sports Arena a productive one.

He not only had a season-high 10 points, but five of them were crucial in a 63-56 victory over Utah Valley University. The nonconference victory improved NDSU to 21-8.

Zastrow, making his first start since his freshman season in 2009, had a 3-pointer and two free throws in a seven-point Bison run that broke a 48-48 second half tie. It came with starting guard Lawrence Alexander on the bench with foul trouble – a much needed bench contribution for NDSU when the Bison were struggling to find offense.

“I’ll look back on it in the future and say it was a special thing,” Zastrow said. “But for now, I’m just worrying about getting the win.”

Braun was just worrying about getting on the floor after getting his walking boot removed on Monday. He practiced Monday night and started against UVU. The statistics weren’t there – he was 0 of 4 – but at least he was present after breaking a bone in his foot in mid-January.

“Still a long ways to go, which I expected,” Braun said. “I felt pretty good running straight ahead and jumping up and down, but the lateral movement needs a lot of work.”

Braun put his foot at about 70 percent of full strength. Head coach Saul Phillips said his leading scorer looked to move better at practice on Monday.

“But he’ll get there,” Phillips said.

NDSU had to withstand the Wolverines’ best shot in the first half when they hit 11 of their first 13 shots. Yet, UVU still only led by a point at 25-24.

The half ended tied 29-29. Braun showed the rust of not playing, missing all three of his shots – all 3-pointers – and having a hard time getting into any kind of offensive flow.

“Nothing came easy,” Phillips said. “It was a very disjointed night. We have to get back together and go to work on some things offensively.”

Not much changed with the flow for the Bison in the second half. Alexander picked up his fourth foul with 14 minutes left and didn’t return until 3:24 was left.

The Bison led 59-52 at that point because Zastrow ran the point like the veteran that he is. He played 14 of the 20 minutes in the second half, a performance that choked up Phillips in a post-game ceremony.

“It’s fitting,” Phillips said later. “The kid has done a lot of the grunt work behind the scenes for this program. The most important thing is he came up big in those minutes.”

Also honored was senior Jamie Mauch, a Hankinson (N.D.) High School graduate who joined the team this year as a walk-on.

UVU (13-16): Thompson 3-8 0-0 7, Jones 1-3 0-1 2, Aird 7-13 9-9 25, Johnson 2-6 3-5 7, Hunsaker 6-14 2-2 15, Hosley 0-0 0-0 0, Enos 0-2 0-0 0, Brown 0-1 0-0 0, Sinclair 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-47 14-17 56.

NDSU (21-8): Wright 4-11 0-0 10, Bjorklund 6-11 2-5 14, Alexander 3-9 1-1 7, Zastrow 2-4 4-4 10, Braun 0-4 0-0 0, Felt 2-8 0-0 5, Brown 4-6 2-3 10, VandenBergh 1-2 2-2 5, Kading 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 23-57 11-15 63.

Halftime: NDSU 29, UVU 29. Total fouls: UVU 16, NDSU 17. Fouled out: none. Rebounds: UVU 29 (Thompson 9); NDSU 37 (Bjorklund 8). 3-point goals: UVU 4-14 (Thompson 1-2, Aird 2-5, Johnson 0-2, Hunsaker 1-4, Enos 0-1); NDSU 6-24 (Wright 2-5, Alexander 0-3, Braun 0-4, Felt 1-5, VandenBergh 1-2, Kading 0-1, Zastrow 2-4). Assists: UVU 9 (Hunsaker 3); NDSU 8 (Brown 3). Turnovers: UVU 11 (Hunsaker 4); NDSU 10 (three with 2). A-2,351.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia