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Paul Morgan / Special to The Forum, Published March 20 2013

Western Michigan tops NDSU in overtime at CBI men's basketball tournament

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – When North Dakota State had a 15-2 lead on Western Michigan in Wednesday night’s College Basketball Invitational game, it looked too easy.

And it was.

WMU fought back to take a second-half lead, but the Bison rallied to tie the game at 62, then took a 69-64 lead in overtime. The Broncos came back to win the game, 72-71, when freshman Connor Tava made two free throws with 13 seconds left.

NDSU had a number of chances to win the game in those last seconds. Taylor Braun drove to the basket and was pushed on his shot but no foul was called. TrayVonn Wright and Lawrence Alexander also put up shots, but nothing fell as the buzzer sounded.

“I thought Taylor was fouled, and I was fouled on the tip,” Wright said. “In the overtime, though, it was about making plays.”

The Bison (24-10) made the plays early, then after falling behind 58-47 with 4:24 left, made even bigger plays to tie the game with 2.5 seconds left on Wright’s 13-foot, wide-open jumper from the middle of the key.

But it was Tava who made the big play in overtime.

The freshman stole the ball from Braun. Braun tried to get the ball back, but fouled the Broncos player, who made the game’s final points.

“And the young man (Braun) who made the turnover had 11 assists,” North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips said.

Wright and Alexander had career nights. Wright had 23 points and eight rebounds, while Alexander added 19 points, 13 in the second half and overtime. Braun scored 10 points to go with his 11 assists and eight rebounds.

“In regulation, I had the open shots,” Alexander said. “Taylor made a couple of plays where he drove and collapsed the defense, and I was able to hit some shots.

“I’ve practiced my shooting all summer, so it was like repetition for me. Taylor made a big difference because most teams are going to collapse on him, because he’s our best player.”

Wright could only shake his head about the strange things that happened during the game. Like the time in the first half when a WMU player missed a shot, and while the two teams were grabbing for the rebound, a Bison player hit the ball hard enough that it bounced high and into Western’s basket.

“When that ball went in, you know it was a wacky game,” Wright said.

There was nothing wacky about Phillips’ explanation about why his team lost, though.

“Offensive rebounds and turnovers decided the game,” the coach said. “We battled through it and stayed in the game despite ourselves at times.

“Like the turnover at the end of overtime that turns into two points, and that’s the worst-case scenario.”

NDSU had 14 turnovers and Western was able to score 25 points off those mistakes. The Bison actually outrebounded Western, 36-34 and had more offensive rebounds, 13-12. However, the Broncos were able to score off their offensive rebounds in critical situations in the second half.

It was a very physical game from the start. The Bison were called for 20 fouls. WMU had 13.

“It was extremely, extremely, extremely physical game,” Phillips said. “It was grown-man basketball, no question about it.

“It was just a disappointing loss.”

N. DAKOTA ST. (24-10): Alexander 7-15 2-2 19, Brown 1-3 0-0 2, Braun 2-9 6-6 10, Wright 10-18 0-0 23, Bjorklund 3-7 2-2 8, Felt 0-3 0-0 0, Zastrow 0-1 0-0 0, VandenBergh 1-3 0-0 3, Kading 2-2 2-2 6. Totals 26-61 12-12 71.

W. MICHIGAN (21-12): Pokley 5-6 3-4 15, Hutcheson 2-5 2-2 6, Whittington 5-11 8-8 18, Richie 0-2 0-0 0, Paul 4-12 0-0 8, Tava 3-7 4-8 10, Brown 4-12 3-4 12, Perry 1-1 0-0 3, Loney 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 20-26 72.

Halftime: N. Dakota St. 32-28. End Of Regulation: Tied 62. 3-Point Goals: N. Dakota St. 7-22 (Alexander 3-4, Wright 3-10, VandenBergh 1-3, Braun 0-1, Brown 0-1, Zastrow 0-1, Felt 0-2), W. Michigan 4-14 (Pokley 2-3, Perry 1-1, Brown 1-3, Paul 0-1, Tava 0-1, Richie 0-2, Hutcheson 0-3). Fouled Out: Brown. Rebounds: N. Dakota St. 36 (Braun, Wright 8), W. Michigan 34 (Brown, Tava 6). Assists: N. Dakota St. 14 (Braun 11), W. Michigan 9 (Brown 3). Total Fouls: N. Dakota St. 20, W. Michigan 13. Technical: W. Michigan Bench. A: 1,358.