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Eric Peterson, Published March 19 2013

NDSU's Phillips, Braun hope to put Summit League loss behind them

FARGO – Saul Phillips hasn’t gotten over the sting of losing in last week’s Summit League championship game. A win would have given his team a berth in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s so crushing to lose in the championship game,” said the North Dakota State head men’s basketball coach. “I’m still not over it. Don’t know if I’ll be over it. But at some point, you put your big-boy pants on, and you go out there and you keep playing ball.”

The Bison (24-9) will be back on the hardwood at

6 tonight at Western Michigan in the first round of the College Basketball Invitational tournament. The

16-team tournament also has teams like Texas and Purdue in the field.

“It’s exciting for us to get to play more games. We don’t want to end our season on a loss,” said Bison forward Taylor Braun, who leads the team with 15.7 points per game. “I think we’ve just got to do our best to forget about what happened in Sioux Falls and move on.”

NDSU is making its second consecutive appearance in the CBI. The Bison suffered a 78-75 loss at Wyoming in the first round of the tournament last season.

“We will be a little bit more prepared, and then we can make some noise,” said junior Marshall Bjorklund, who is averaging 11.6 points and six rebounds per game.

The Bison played Western Michigan in a BracketBusters game last season at the Bison Sports Arena. NDSU earned an 86-73 victory in that meeting.

This season, Western Michigan (20-12) has four players who average in double digits. Junior center Shayne Whittington, who is 6-foot-10, leads the team with 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. The Broncos average 67.1 points per game.

“They are tough-minded,” Phillips said. “They rebound hard. They have some very good shooters.”

The Bison are two wins away from tying the program record for wins in a season. NDSU won 26 games in both 1924-25 and 2008-09. The Bison made the NCAA tournament in 2008-09, losing to Kansas in the opening round.

“That means something,” Phillips said of the team record for wins in a season. “That’s something that’s tangible that’s there for us. … We like playing basketball. We like winning games. We’re going to go do that.”


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

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