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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 25 2014

Braun's 30 points leads North Dakota State over South Dakota State

BROOKINGS, S.D.– A tall guard took the game into his own hands at Frost Arena, only this time it was a different face in the North Dakota State and South Dakota State men’s basketball series. NDSU’s Taylor Braun owned the second half.

The Bison senior had 22 of his 30 points in the second half with several crucial hoops and free throws down the stretch. The 85-77 victory before 4,859 fans kept the Bison in first place in the Summit League at 4-1.

He did to SDSU what former Jackrabbits guard Nate Wolters did to NDSU the last couple of seasons. Bison head coach Saul Phillips joked he kept looking at the exits making sure Wolters didn’t walk in.

“Braun just took the game over,” said SDSU head coach Scott Nagy. “We didn’t make the adjustments … they made the tougher plays and they deserved to win.”

Nine times the Jacks scored in the final 11 minutes only to have Braun answer on the other end with a bucket or free throw. He finished 9 of 15 from the field and 10 of 12 from the free throw line. He added a game-high six assists.

His performance kept the Bison from the same sort of meltdown that plagued them last year at Frost, when the Jackrabbits outscored them 38-16 in the second half.

“We like to see the ball in his hands,” said Bison center Marshall Bjorklund. “He was being aggressive and knocking down shots he knocks down every day.”

Bjorklund was no slouch all game, either. He finished with 19 points. An important factor: he stayed out of foul trouble in a physical game, playing 35 of the possible 40 minutes. Most of those came against SDSU’s 6-9 heralded center Cody Larson.

“We’ve worked really hard with him trying to keep him out of foul trouble,” Phillips said. “Cody is a very difficult matchup. You don’t see guys like that in this league very often. How often in mid-major basketball do you have two great centers going at it?”

The end of the first half and the first five minutes of the second half treated the Bison well. Trailing 37-35, they scored the final six points before halftime to take a 41-37 lead at intermission.

SDSU’s Jordan Dykstra opened the second half with a jumper, but that was all the offense the Jackrabbits had for a while. TrayVonn Wright’s 3-pointer and layup, three straight inside buckets from Bjorklund and Braun’s jumper made it 54-39 with 14:37 remaining.

In all, the Bison run was 19-2.

The Jacks, who shot 50 percent in the first half, made just 1 of 7 field goals to start the second half. It took until the 14-minute mark, but they finally got their offensive bearings.

Still, it was a matter of SDSU making a big splash of its own down 11 points in the final eight minutes.

With Braun wheeling and dealing, that was tough to do. He hit six straight shots at one point to keep the Bison near a double-digit advantage. Was it Wolters-esque?

“I wouldn’t compare Taylor Braun to Nate,” said SDSU guard Brayden Carlson. “Taylor is a remarkable player, a special player no doubt, but he can’t do the things that Nate could do.”

Carlson led SDSU with 22 points. But it was defense that had Nagy scratching his head. It’s been a big reason for the 2-3 Summit mark, he said.

“We’re just not good enough defensively to win that game right now,” he said. “Unless that changes, this is who were going to be. If we get that changed, then we’ll be OK.”

NDSU (15-5, 4-1 Summit): Wright 3-7 0-0 8, Bjorklund 7-12 5-7 19, Alexander 4-7 6-7 15, Brown 1-1 0-0 2, Braun 9-15 10-12 30, Felt 2-5 0-0 6, Kading 1-1 2-2 5, Aaberg 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 27-48 23-28 85.

SDSU (10-10, 2-3 Summit): Larson 5-8 4-7 14, Dykstra 7-13 0-0 17, Bittle 1-5 0-0 2, Carlson 7-13 5-6 22, White 6-10 0-0 16, Broman 0-1 0-0 0, Horstman 0-1 0-0 0, Devine 0-0 0-2 0, Heemstra 2-5 2-2 6. Totals: 28-56 11-17 77.

Halftime: NDSU 41, SDSU 37, Total fouls: NDSU 18, SDSU 21. Fouled out: Bittle. Rebounds: NDSU 34 (Bjorklund 7); SDSU 24 (Dykstra 8). 3-point goals: NDSU 8-15 (Wright 2-2, Alexander 1-2, Braun 2-6, Felt 2-4, Kading 1-1); SDSU 10-24 (Dykstra 3-7, Bittle 0-2, Carlson 3-7, White 4-7, Horstman 0-1). Assists: NDSU 12 (Braun 6); SDSU 18 (White 5). Turnovers: NDSU 11 (Braun 4); SDSU 8 (Carlson 3). A-4,859

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia