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Published November 15 2013

Saint Mary's leads almost entire way in defeating North Dakota State

In a game that didn’t end until well after midnight Fargo time, the West Coast Conference Saint Mary’s College Gaels (Calif.) kept North Dakota State’s offense just groggy enough to take a 78-65 men’s basketball victory Thursday night.

It was a battle of two of the higher-rated NCAA Division I mid-major programs. The Bison came in sixth and Saint Mary’s 19th in the poll conducted by CollegeInsider.com. The Gaels will see their stock go up after an impressive 85-63 win over Mid-American Conference favorite University of Akron earlier in the week.

The Bison hung tough with the Gaels, but could never mount any kind of a second half decisive run that was good enough to cut into a consistent Gael lead, which hung for the most part in the four- to eight-point range.

A key stretch with NDSU trailing 67-63: Gaels backup center Matt Hodgson hit two free throws with 2:02 left and added a field goal with the shot clock winding down for a 71-64 advantage with 1:02 remaining.

The Bison, who finished 1 of 13 from 3-point range, only got a Marshall Bjorklund free throw in the final minute.

Bjorklund, who played just six minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, was productive in the final 20 minutes getting most of his 23 points. He hit 10 of 14 field goals.

The Bison, who trailed by nine points five minutes into the second half, rallied over the next six minutes to pull within 51-49 on a pair of Lawrence Alexander field goals.

But the Gaels hit their next three shots, including a 3-pointer, to forge a seven-point advantage. Trying to find a lead was something that proved to be too tough for NDSU, which trailed all game with the exception of 7-6 early in the first half.

The Bison dug a 34-27 first-half hole with two basic statistics: shooting and rebounding. NDSU was 10 of 27 from the field – including 1 of 7 from 3-point range – and was outrebounded 24-12.

A 3-point field goal at the buzzer by Alexander kept the Bison from a double-digit deficit at intermission.