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Jeff Kolpack, Published March 20 2014

L.A. shines bright for Bison at NCAA tourney

SPOKANE, Wash. – L.A. was prime time on the West Coast, only it wasn’t in Los Angeles. Lawrence Alexander took Spokane by storm on Thursday night, personally turning thousands of neutral-court NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament fans into North Dakota State followers.

The Bison junior torched Oklahoma for 28 points while his understudy, freshman Carlin Dupree, had four key points in overtime in the 80-75 win in the West Region second round at Spokane Arena.

It was quite the turnaround for Alexander from his performance in the Summit League title game against Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne when he struggled all game.

“He had a rough one to say the least in the conference championship game,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “I forgive you, L.A.”

Alexander hit 10 of 15 field goals and was 4 of 4 from the foul line, including hitting both ends of the bonus free throw with 32 seconds left in overtime that gave the Bison a 78-72 lead. When NDSU needed a hoop with the shot clock winding down, Alexander consistently got to the rim against the Sooners defense.

“He’s my point guard, and he will be as long as I’m on this earth,” Phillips said. “Some nights we need him to do other things than score. Tonight, it was time to score a little bit, wasn’t it?”

Alexander’s free throws came after Dupree provided some unexpected heroics coming in for senior Taylor Braun, who fouled out with 3:32 left in overtime. First, Dupree hit both ends of a bonus free throw with the game tied at 72 with 1:18 remaining.

“It’s not easy for a young guy to come in at that point,” said OU head coach Lon Kruger. “The young guy stepped up at the moment and delivered.”

Phillips had two options to replace Braun: Dupree or senior guard Mike Felt. Phillips said he went with Dupree because he’s better at breaking the press.

“I thought Carlin would go in and pass and catch and get the ball to someone who is playing pretty well,” Phillips said. “No, Carlin just smashed all over this.”

Example No. 1: After the Sooners missed on the other end, Dupree was unfazed driving the lane in traffic, and his short shot made it a two-possession lead at 76-72 with just 40 seconds left.

“I saw an opportunity to go and I just went,” Dupree said. “My first reaction was to go like I’ve been doing in practice. I didn’t want this to end for these guys so we stayed together as a team, and I’m excited that we pulled it off.”

Dupree played just two minutes the entire night.

“Carlin Dupree played the loudest two minutes in the NCAA tournament,” Phillips said.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia