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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 08 2014

Bison take over first place in Summit League men's basketball with win over IPFW

FARGO – It used to be that Kory Brown’s contribution to the North Dakota State men’s basketball team was hard to tell on the stat sheet. He was all about hustle and defense.

Now, even the stats are starting to look good.

The Bison sophomore completed a stellar two-game homestand as a playmaking machine Saturday to help NDSU claim first place in the Summit League standings. He had 13 points, seven assists and four steals in a 69-58 win over Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne before a season-high 4,557 fans at the Bison Sports Arena.

The points and assists were a career high.

“One word – energy,” Brown said. “We’re all looking for a spark, and I figured I would bring it out right off the bat.”

He rarely swung and missed, hitting 6 of 9 field goals. He was one of four Bison in double figures led by TrayVonn Wright with 15 points.

It was a big win for NDSU in this regard: IPFW beat the Bison in the conference opener, and another loss to the Mastodons would have made it a tough road to claim the No. 1 seed and first-round bye for the Summit tournament. The Bison improved to 7-2 in the league and 18-6 overall.

It was a matchup of two of the best shooting teams in the country. NDSU leads Division I in field-goal percentage at 51.0 and IPFW is 12th.

But this game came down to defense.

NDSU jumped to a 16-2 lead, but the Mastodons gradually got better after that. They got within four twice in the final five minutes, the second time with 3:35 left.

But Brown responded with a rebound slam dunk. Less than a minute later, Wright threw a dunk down that was one of the more entertaining of his career – especially considering the time of the game.

“It was a top-five,” head coach Saul Phillips said, referring to a hypothetical ranking of Wright dunks. “You could see that look in his eye when he turned the corner. People should buy a ticket just to watch him. I can’t guarantee I’ll ever have a guy who can dunk like him again.”

That made it 64-56, making it tough on the Mastodons in the final two-minute stretch. They saw their best chance go awry when, trailing 64-58, they missed a 3-pointer with 1:25 left.

On a day when the Bison struggled at the free-throw line (12 of 20), Lawrence Alexander hit both ends of the bonus for a 66-58 advantage at :41.

“We were not very good in a number of details required to win a game like this on the road,” said IPFW head coach Tony Jasick.

That mainly entailed 16 turnovers, giving up 11 offensive rebounds and shooting 39 percent.

“To hold them to 39 percent and 58 points is a job well done,” Phillips said.

And really, IPFW did not have an answer for Brown. He had 10 of his points in the second half.

“Kory Brown this weekend took a huge step forward,” Phillips said. “He was a man all over the court. He was a man all weekend long. Talk about guys making winning plays – that’s him.”

NDSU hits the road for the final time in the Summit with games at Western Illinois on Thursday and Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday.

“We need a lot more space with the couple of losses that we have,” Wright said. “We don’t feel that comfortable, and every other team is looking for that No. 1 spot. We have to keep plugging away.”

IPFW (18-8, 6-3 Summit): Kibiloski 1-3 0-0 2, Forbes 5-14 7-9 17, Bland 3-7 2-2 9, Jacobo 3-10 4-4 12, Edwards 2-2 2-2 6, Evans 3-5 0-0 9, McCray 0-1 0-2 0, Reed 1-4 1-2 3. Totals: 18-46 16-21 58.

NDSU (18-6, 7-2 Summit): Wright 6-12 1-4 15, Bjorklund 4-4 0-0 8, Alexander 2-10 6-6 11, Brown 6-9 1-2 13, Braun 6-, Felt 0-2 0-0 0, Dupree 0-2 2-2 2, Kading 1-4 0-0 2, Aaberg 2-2 0-0 4. Totals: 26-54 12-20 69.

Halftime: NDSU 32, IPFW 26. Total fouls: IPFW 16, NDSU 16. Fouled out: none. Rebounds; IPFW 28 (Reed 7); NDSU 32 (Four with 6). 3-point goals: IPFW 6-16 (Kibiloski 0-2, Jacobo 2-6, Bland 1-2, Evans 3-5, Reed 0-1); NDSU 5-19 (Wright 2-6, Alexander 1-4, Braun 2-4, Felt 0-2, Dupree 0-1). Assists: IPFW 12 (three with 3); NDSU 15 (Brown 7). Turnovers: IPFW 16 (Jacobo 4); NDSU 10 (four with 2). A-4,557.

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