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Jason Haddix / Special to The Forum, Published December 14 2013

No. 2 Buckeyes roll past NDSU for men's basketball win

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State’s Lenzelle Smith Jr. connected with a 3-pointer on the first possession Saturday night against North Dakota State. That early bucket set the tone for the remainder of the game as the Bison men’s basketball team fell to the second-ranked Buckeyes 79-62.

The Bison did not leave Value City Arena empty-handed though. They left with the Ohio State Buckeyes knowing who the yellow and green were.

“They did a good job with their scouting report. They knew a lot of our plays,” Taylor Braun said. “I guess that is encouraging because a lot of the times you go into these big games and they are not even preparing for you and that is a slap in the face. It just says we are a good mid-major team.

“I guess losing by 17 – that is a positive you take from it, that we were respected by the No. 2 team in the country.”

North Dakota State (7-4) struggled from the field early and often, which hampered the Bison from making any significant comeback attempt. As Ohio State’s (10-0) hot shooting continued, NDSU kept missing the mark.

“When you are playing a Big Ten team that is No. 2-ranked in America – should be No. 1 – and they’re knocking down 3s at that rate, you got an uphill climb,” Bison coach Saul Phillips said. “We had their full attention. They played very well, and we had no answer for them.”

Ohio State shot 27 of 51 (52.9 percent) from the field, including making 10 of 20 from 3, while NDSU shot 42.3 percent, and a dreadful 29.4 percent from beyond the arc.

The Bison failed to hold a lead. The closest they came was three in the opening minutes and five as the game moved on. With just less than three minutes to go in the half, NDSU flirted with success and went on a meager 7-2 run, but a Buckeyes’ 10-2 run to close the half quickly answered that – nine points coming from three-point shooting.

“I don’t think we expected them to shoot as well as they did from the three-point line,” Braun said. “That was a real difference in the game.”

Marshall Bjorklund, who is the Bison’s usual go-to-guy when a bucket is needed, was blanketed for most of the night by Buckeyes big man Amir Williams. The 6-foot, 11-inch junior limited Bjorklund, who ranks second in the NCAA in field-goal percentage, to just 5 of 10 shooting and 12 points.

“Foul trouble early didn’t help,” Phillips said. “It always seemed like (Ohio State guard Aaron) Craft was going to come over and mess with him a little bit. The have guards that are really good and getting down and making a guy pick up the dribble a little earlier.

“Not able to dominate like he did against Notre Dame (in Wednesday’s NDSU win). No crime in that.”

Williams’ physical play was not limited to his defense. While the Bison held him six points under his average, his physicality was unmatched in the paint. Ohio State held advantages in rebounds (10), points in the paint (6) and second change points (9).

“We knew what to expect, there are some pretty big guys out there,” Bjorklund said. “It’s the Big Ten, and they are going to be a physical team. That is how it was, a physical game.”

With 4:11 to go in the first, Williams backed Bjorklund into the circle under the basket, then lowered his shoulder. Bjorklund fell to the court with a thud and Williams scored the bucket.

NDSU’s leading scorer Taylor Braun did what Bjorklund did against Notre Dame. Braun put the Bison on his back, but his 21-point performance was not enough.

“(NDSU) is a veteran basketball team that’s been together a lot with a lot of great players and a lot of great guys who play well together,” Craft said. “Probably the best thing for us was that they beat Notre Dame and that really got our attention.”

NDSU (7-4): Wright 2-7 0-0 5, Bjorklund 5-10 2-3 12, Alexander 3-8 3-4 10, Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Braun 8-16 4-7 21, Newell 0-0 0-0 0, Felt 2-6 2-2 8, Dupree 0-0 2-4 2, Kading 1-3 0-0 2, Aaberg 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-52 13-20 62.

OSU (10-0): Ross 6-12 3-4 18, A. Williams 2-3 0-0 4, Scott 2-4 0-1 4, Craft 2-5 2-2 6, Smith Jr. 7-12 1-1 18, Loving 3-7 4-4 12, Thompson 3-4 5-7 12, Della Valle 1-1 0-0 3, Lorbach 0-1 0-0 0, McDonald 1-2 0-2 2. Totals 27-51 15-21 79.

Halftime: OSU 41, NDSU 28. 3-Point Goals: NDSU 5-17 (Felt 2-5, Alexander 1-3, Braun 1-4, Wright 1-4, Kading 0-1), Ohio St. 10-20 (Smith Jr. 3-5, Ross 3-5, Loving 2-4, Della Valle 1-1, Thompson 1-2, Craft 0-1, Scott 0-2). Rebounds: NDSU 26 (Braun, Dupree 5), Ohio St. 36 (A. Williams 9). Assists: NDSU 8 (Alexander, Braun, Dupree 2), Ohio St. 16 (Craft 7). Total Fouls: NDSU 22, Ohio St. 16. A: 15,272.