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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 18 2014

Bison own final five minutes to take victory over Western Illinois

FARGO – The street fight mentality returned to the Bison Sports Arena on Saturday afternoon. Playing Western Illinois will do that to North Dakota State.

Splice in a season-high crowd of 4,284 with a halftime celebration of the Division I FCS national champion Bison football team, and the energy was enough to power the campus. NDSU had the most wattage on the court down the stretch to take a 65-52 victory.

“Games against Western feel so much different than against any other team,” said Bison forward Taylor Braun. “It’s how college basketball should be played I guess.”

How are they different? The slower-pace Leathernecks make every possession precious. Western plays physical, without fouling much. Good luck in trying to get a crowd-pleasing slam dunk against them.

If you go three or four possessions without scoring, that could mean three or four minutes off the clock.

“It’s always a war when these two teams play,” said Western associate head coach Wade Hokenson. “It’s fun to be a part of. Obviously, we wanted to be on the winning end of it.”

It was any team’s game until the final five minutes when the Bison finished on a 15-4 spurt. Five different NDSU players scored in that stretch.

“Credit North Dakota State. They did a great job first of all stopping us offensively,” Hokenson said. “Their length came into play on defense.”

The two-game weekend sweep puts NDSU at 3-1 in the Summit League. With eight teams, there isn’t much room for a down week.

“It was a fun atmosphere and it was nice to see a full BSA,” Braun said.

NDSU showed an early sign of trying to pull away, taking a 24-16 lead halfway through the first half, but the Leathernecks answered that with six straight. The biggest lead for either team after that was five points by WIU late in the first half.

It was 30-30 at halftime, with a four-point advantage in the second half looking like a double-digit lead. It wasn’t until Kory Brown’s basket with 5:14 remaining that made it 54-48 did a team gain at least a two-possession lead.

A goaltending call on Braun’s drive made it an eight-point margin at 3:52. Braun finished with 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

TrayVonn Wright’s 3-point field goal and Marshall Bjorklund’s running hook shot made it 61-50, culminating an 11-2 Bison run with 2:30 remaining.

“I don’t think there really was a run,” Braun said. “It was slow, methodical the whole time. You really have to play well to open up a lead against them.”

Braun and point guard Lawrence Alexander left the game briefly with injuries. Braun said he tweaked his back but is fine, and Alexander played with a strained oblique muscle.

WIU (7-11, 1-2 Summit): Stensgaard 1-5 0-0 2, Ochereobia 6-9 6-9 18, Sandifer 3-7 6-6 13, Roberts-Burnett 4-9 0-0 8, Covington 4-10 0-0 11, Foster 0-0 0-0 0, Miklusak 0-2 0-0 0, Link 0-0 0-0 0, Conde 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 18-43 12-15 52.

NDSU (14-5, 3-1 Summit): Wright 4-7 3-4 12, Bjorklund 5-10 5-7 15, Alexander 3-8 0-0 7, Brown 2-7 0-0 4, Braun 5-13 4-4 14, Felt 2-5 0-0 5, Dupree 0-1 0-0 0, Kading 2-2 2-2 6, Aaberg 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 24-54 14-17 65.

Halftime: NDSU 30, WIU 30. Total fouls: WIU 13, NDSU 15. Fouled out: none. Technical foul: WIU coach Molinari. Rebounds: WIU 22 (Ochereobia 6); NDSU 37 (Braun 8). 3-point goals: WIU 4-10 (Sandifer 1-3, Covington 3-7); NDSU 3-12 (Wright 1-3, Alexander 1-3, Brown 0-1, Braun 0-2, Felt 1-2, Dupree 0-1). Assists: WIU 11 (Sandifer 6); NDSU 11 (Braun 6). Turnovers: WIU 9 (Sandifer, Ochereobia 3); NDSU 6 (Alexander 3). A-4,284.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia