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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 22 2014

Bison clinch share of Summit League title with win over South Dakota State

FARGO – When the Bison Sports Arena reopens in a couple of years as the Scheels Center, North Dakota State can hang another men’s basketball banner. The Bison clinched a tie for the Summit League regular-season title on Saturday afternoon.

The 74-59 win over South Dakota State gave them a two-game lead with two to play. There’s more fish to fry, certainly, with the Summit tournament, but a season-high sellout of 5,614 fans enjoyed a double-digit victory feast.

So did the head coach. Sort of.

“It means nothing until we get it outright,” Saul Phillips said. “I’ll be excited to have an outright title. If we do that, I’ll cut down some nets. The regular season means a lot to coaches. I don’t know how much it means to players. I don’t know how much it means to fans. But, to me, it means over the course of a long season, you’re the best team.”

The Bison were the best team from start to finish against SDSU. Forward TrayVonn Wright and center Marshall Bjorklund shed last week’s offensive slumps, finishing with 20 and 18 points, respectively.

Wright was 0 of 11 from 3-point range in the road sweep at Western Illinois and Nebraska-Omaha, but was back to form going 3 of 5 against the Jacks.

“I didn’t take it too serious,” Wright said. “I know I can make a jump shot.

They were welcome contributions because forward Taylor Braun, the Summit’s leading scorer, was held to six points on 1 of 6 field goals.

“The last couple of weeks, me and Tray were not playing our best,” Bjorklund said. “But we didn’t get down. We knew our time would come. They were keying on Taylor, and it was our time to put the team on our back I guess.”

It was the largest crowd since 5,790 watched the Bison against SDSU in 2009. They saw NDSU forge a 16-5 lead in the first nine minutes and rarely lost its double-digit advantage after that. It was 33-18 at halftime, and the closest the Jacks got was 63-53 and 65-55, the latter with just less than two minutes remaining.

SDSU had chances in there to cut the lead further, but couldn’t convert following Bison turnovers.

“Chances? Sure,” said SDSU guard Brayden Carlson. “But that’s not a situation we want to be in. You usually don’t win those games. We were in a pretty tough spot there.”

At one point, NDSU guard Lawrence Alexander had three straight turnovers against an SDSU full-court press. Phillips said the Bison didn’t practice it much this week because he anticipated a tighter game.

“What was that?” Phillips said. “I’m going to fire myself as press break coach. We’ve been pretty good at it most of the year. I told our guys I’m glad we were up 14 instead of four.”

It proved to be a momentary blip. The Bison, who lead Division I in field-goal percentage, will maintain that status with their 54 percent clip (26 of 48) on Saturday. The Jacks, meanwhile, shot 28 percent in the first half.

“The first half was very disappointing,” said head coach Scott Nagy. “We were just very timid.”

SDSU (16-11, 8-4 Summit): Larson 3-14 5-6 11, Dykstra 3-6 3-4 10, Bittle 4-9 0-0 9, Carlson 2-10 6-7 10, White 2-5 0-0 6, Horstman 1-4 0-0 2, Broman 1-3 0-0 2, Devine 0-0 0-0 0, Heemstra 3-7 2-3 9. Totals: 19-58 16-20 59.

NDSU (21-6, 10-2 Summit): Wright 8-13 1-1 20, Bjorklund 7-11 4-7 18, Alexander 4-6 3-4 12, Brown 3-4 4-4 10, Braun 1-6 4-4 6, Felt 1-3 0-0 2, Dupree 0-0 0-0 0, Kading 0-1 0-0 0, Aaberg 2-4 2-4 6. Totals: 26-48 18-24 74.

Halftime: NDSU 33, SDSU 18. Total fouls: SDSU 20, NDSU 16. Fouled out: Dykstra, White. Rebounds: SDSU 32 (Heemstra 8), NDSU 33 (Wright, Bjorklund 7). 3-point goals: SDSU 5-19 (Dykstra 1-2, Bittle 1-4, Carlson 0-3, White 2-5, Broman 0-1, Horstman 0-2, Heemstra 1-2); NDSU 4-11 (Wright 3-5, Alexander 1-2, Braun 0-1, Felt 0-1, Kading 0-1). Assists: SDSU 9 (Carlson 5); NDSU 15 (Alexander 5). Turnovers: SDSU 7).


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