Jason Haddix / Special to The Forum, Published December 11 2013
VIDEOS: Bison knock off Notre Dame in men's basketball
But just like in the movie “Hoosiers,” the basket is still 10 feet from the floor – North Dakota State played the part of the small school against the powerhouse Notre Dame.
And yes, Wednesday night ended like a Hollywood script: Bison 73, Irish 69.
“It feels good, especially for some of us older guys,” Marshall Bjorklund said. “We have had three or four high-major games that we lost by a last-second shot. It is a good feeling.”
The 6-foot-8, 250-pound senior put the Bison (7-3) on his back in the second half and carried them as Notre Dame (7-3) honed in on fellow senior Taylor Braun after his 10-point first-half performance.
Notre Dame held its largest lead of the game 53-50 with 12 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the second half. The Bison drove the ball down the court and Lawrence Alexander weaved his way through the defense, but missed the layup. Bjorklund corralled the rebound and was promptly found attempting the putback.
Entering the game he was shooting a dismal 55.6 percent from the line and was just 2 of 4 before these two attempts. With the Irish student section doing what they could as the “sixth man,” Bjorklund was clutch, making both to make it a one-point game.
He went on to score eight of NDSU’s next 12 points, including a short jumper with 8:14 to break a 56-all tie to give the Bison their ninth and final lead.
He finished with a game-high 26 points, 12 point greater than his season average.
“We have a really good post player,” coach Saul Phillips said. “It is hard for people to wrap their brains around it, but we have a really good post player in Fargo, North Dakota.”
Defense played a big part in the win as well by holding three of the top four Irish scorers below their season average, including senior Jerian Grant, who mustered just nine points, all from the free-throw line. He entered averaging 19.8.
“(NDSU) does a great job jamming the lane,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Grant couldn’t really get any angles to the bucket. I think you have to credit them. They had a couple guys with strength and length to guard him.”
Lawrence Alexander cruised to a double-double with his season-high 16 points and career-high 14 rebounds.
“When you hear that we’re finally going to have a $40 million new arena and you beat an ACC team on the road in the same day, it ranks up there with some of the best moments in this program’s history,” Phillips said.
NOTES: Wednesday’s game was North Dakota State’s first against Notre Dame and first against an Atlantic Coast Conference team… Senior forward Marshall Bjorklund entered Wednesday’s game as the NCAA’s active career leader in field-goal percentage at 66.7 percent and is fourth all-time, behind Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor and Akeem Olajuwan… Prior to Wednesday’s game, Notre Dame was 14-1 all-time against Summit League opponents; its lone loss was to Denver on Dec. 20, 1947
N. DAKOTA ST. (7-3): Felt 0-2 0-0 0, Alexander 5-14 4-5 16, Dupree 2-2 0-0 4, Brown 1-2 1-2 3, Braun 3-6 5-6 13, Wright 4-11 0-0 9, Kading 0-0 0-0 0, Bjorklund 11-14 4-6 26, Aaberg 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 27-53 14-19 73.
NOTRE DAME (7-3): Sherman 3-9 4-4 10, Atkins 4-8 4-5 12, Grant 0-5 9-11 9, Jackson 3-7 2-2 11, Connaughton 8-21 0-0 21, Burgett 0-1 0-0 0, Knight 1-3 1-3 3, Vasturia 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 20-56 20-25 69.
Halftime: N. Dakota St. 39-37. 3-Point Goals: N. Dakota St. 5-10 (Braun 2-3, Alexander 2-4, Wright 1-2, Felt 0-1), Notre Dame 9-29 (Connaughton 5-15, Jackson 3-6, Vasturia 1-2, Burgett 0-1, Atkins 0-2, Grant 0-3). Rebounds: N. Dakota St. 33 (Alexander 14), Notre Dame 32 (Sherman 10). Assists: N. Dakota St. 13 (Bjorklund 4), Notre Dame 16 (Grant 5). Total Fouls: N. Dakota St. 19, Notre Dame 15. A: 7,662.