Bison Face Gophers Tonight - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Bison Face Gophers Tonight

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North Dakota State (8-2) is scheduled to play Minnesota (11-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 22, at Williams Arena (14,625) in Minneapolis. It's the final non-conference game for the Bison before returning to Summit League play at home against Oakland and IPFW next Wednesday and Friday.

TELEVISION: Thursday's game will be televised by the Big Ten Network on BTN.com with Matt Nelson handling the play-by-play and John Focke as analyst. Subscriptions begin at $9.95 monthly.

THE SERIES: This will be the 28th meeting between North Dakota State and Minnesota dating back to 1900-01 and the sixth head-to-head matchup as Division I opponents. Minnesota leads the series 25-2. The Gophers have won eight straight in the series, or 14 in a row excluding a 1976 forfeit. NDSU's only other victory was 33-29 in December 1936.
Last Five Meetings, Division I

11/18/05 - at Minnesota 70, NDSU 57 (-13)
11/13/06 - at Minnesota 63, NDSU 49 (-14)
12/03/07 - at Minnesota 88, NDSU 56 (-32)
11/29/08 - at Minnesota 90, NDSU 76 (-14)
11/24/10 - at Minnesota 84, NDSU 65 (-19)

The Golden Gophers are 11-1 after beating Central Michigan 76-56 on Dec. 13 for their fifth straight win. Minnesota is playing without leading its leading scorer and rebounder in Trevor Mbakwe, who was averaging 14.0 points and 9.1 rebounds over the first seven games before a season-ending knee injury. Julian Welch (10.3 ppg) is the leading active scorer, Rodney Williams averages 9.4 points and 4.5 rebounds, and Austin Hollins averages 9.2 ppg. Head coach Tubby Smith (High Point, 1973) has a 91-54 record in his fifth season at Minnesota and a 478-199 record in his 21st season overall.

Marshall Bjorklund scored 15 points and North Dakota State shot 62 percent on its way to a 92-50 rout of Mayville State last Saturday. Dylan Hale and Drew Lundberg scored a season-high 11 points each for the Bison, who shot 79 percent in the first half and led 57-20 at intermission. NDSU's biggest lead was 44 points midway through the second half. NDSU opened the game on an 18-3 run and made 16 of its first 20 shots. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Mike Felt made it 47-15 four minutes before halftime and the Bison lead was at least 30 the rest of the way.

North Dakota State senior forward Eric Carlson missed the first nine regular-season games with a broken jaw suffered in the Nov. 1 exhibition loss to Minnesota State Moorhead. Carlson took an elbow but played another 16 minutes after the collision. He had his jaw wired shut for four weeks and returned Dec. 17 against Mayville State with four points and a game-high nine rebounds in 18 minutes off the bench.

North Dakota State ranked among the top 50 nationally in eight categories in the NCAA Division I statistics through Sunday, Dec. 18. Individually, Mike Felt was 18th in 3-point percentage (.468) and 29th in 3-pointers per game (2.9), and Lawrence Alexander was 40th in assists per game (5.5).
NCAA Team Rankings, Through Dec. 18

- 26th in field-goal shooting (.490)
- 27th in assist/turnover ratio (1.27)
- 30th in 3-point defense (.277)
- 31st in field goal defense (.377)
- 40th in scoring margin (+13.0)
- 43rd in assists per game (15.5)
- 44th in turnovers per game (12.2)
- 50th in winning percentage (.800)

North Dakota State earned a road split of its first two Summit League games Dec. 1-3. Lawrence Alexander had 16 points and four assists, and Taylor Braun added 12 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the 55-51 loss at Western Illinois. Mike Felt's 3-pointer capped a 15-2 run to give NDSU its first lead at 51-50 with 1:44 to play. NDSU committed a season-high 20 turnovers against Western Illinois and topped that with 21 in the 84-79 win at IUPUI. Braun had a career-high 30 points in the win and TrayVonn Wright added a career-high four blocks to go with season highs of 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Bison led by as many as 19 late in the first half and shot 62 percent as a team.

North Dakota State started the season 2-0 for the first time since November 2002 and with six straight wins made NDSU's best start since the 2000-01 Bison won their first seven straight under coach Greg McDermott. The six straight wins to start the season was the fourth most in Summit League history and last done by South Dakota State last year before NDSU beat the Jackrabbits 82-75 in Brookings.
Most Consecutive Wins to Start a Season
Summit League, All Games

1. 9, Northern Illinois, 1994-95
2. 8, Oral Roberts, 2004-05
3. 7, Illinois-Chicago, 1990-91
7, Green Bay, 1991-92
5. 6, North Dakota State, 2011-12

6, South Dakota State, 2010-11
6, Oral Roberts, 2002-03

A win over Minnesota on Thursday wouldn't be North Dakota State's first against the Big Ten. NDSU beat No. 13/15-ranked Wisconsin 62-55 in 2005-06 and has one other Top 25 win to its credit. The Bison topped No. 8/9 Marquette of the Big East 64-60 in 2006-07 and have made plenty of other runs at major conference opponents, including a three-point loss at the buzzer to Arizona State of the Pac-12 less than two weeks ago:
NDSU's Near Upsets, Power Conferences

11/19/04 - at Kansas State 70, NDSU 61
11/17/06 - at Texas Tech 85, NDSU 81
12/09/06 - Kansas State 83, at NDSU 81
12/20/08 - at Southern California 61, NDSU 57
11/12/10 - at Oregon 97, NDSU 92 (OT)
12/10/11 - at Arizona State 60, NDSU 57

North Dakota State guard Taylor Braun was named Most Valuable Player of the Hilltop Challenge and Bison guards Mike Felt and Lawrence Alexander were also named to the all-tournament team. Braun averaged a team-high 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He notched a career-high 26 points and 10 rebounds against San Francisco and shot 68 percent from the floor and 86 percent from the foul line for the weekend. Felt averaged 13.7 points and was 9-for-19 from the 3-point line for 47 percent. He led NDSU in scoring twice off the bench with 18 points against Louisiana-Lafayette and 17 against Northern Arizona. Alexander averaged 12.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists and nearly got a triple-double in his collegiate debut with 13 points, nine rebounds and eight assists against San Francisco.

North Dakota State's roster includes 10 underclassmen this year with a combination of seven sophomores and three freshmen. Two of those sophomores could be juniors by now, but Mike Felt was granted a hardship year in 2009-10 with an early foot injury and Jordan Aaberg sat out all of last season to recover from a concussion. This is the youngest team NDSU has fielded since listing 13 underclassmen in both 2005-06 and 2006-07. NDSU held the distinction of being the youngest team in the nation in 2005-06, but the Bison are not even among the top 10 this year. UC Irvine, Navy and Texas Tech are the three youngest teams in America, in order, based on years of experience per player.

North Dakota State, with seven sophomores and three freshmen on its roster, got its youthful team a jump-start on the season with a two-game trip to Winnipeg in August as part of a once-in-four-years foreign tour allowed under NCAA rules. The Bison held 10 practices before going to Canada and beating Manitoba 97-56 and Winnipeg 89-42. NDSU's only other foreign trip was to Winnipeg and Toronto in 2005-06. NDSU had four freshmen and one junior in its starting lineup that year and went 16-12 overall including a 62-55 win in January at No. 13/15-ranked Wisconsin.

CLOSE GAMES: North Dakota State has played more close games the last two seasons than any other years in the program's Division I history. NDSU had 17 of 29 games decided by single digits and went 5-12 in those games last year. That includes a 2-8 record in games decided by five or less points. The Bison were 6-11 in single-digit games two years ago.


5 or Less

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North Dakota State is 6-4 in overtime games since joining The Summit League in 2007-08, including a 1-1 mark in OT last year. NDSU lost 97-92 in last year's regular-season opener at Oregon but defeated UMKC 89-88 in double overtime on Jan. 29.

North Dakota State returns four players who started at least 20 games for last year's 14-15 team that placed seventh in The Summit League with an 8-10 record. NDSU has three of its top four scorers back including senior forward Eric Carlson (10.1 ppg), sophomore forward Marshall Bjorklund (8.7 ppg) and sophomore guard Taylor Braun (8.2 ppg). The other returning starter is senior guard Drew Lundberg (8.0 ppg). The Bison graduated their leading scorer and second team All-Summit League forward Michael Tveidt (15.3 ppg), who is playing for the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League.

North Dakota State has at least 11 televised games on its schedule this year, including the home opener on Fox Sports North and Fox Sports Wisconsin, and four other home games on Midco Sports Net. Every regular-season home game and select road games will be available by subscription to NDSU All Access on GoBison.com.
Nov. 16 - vs. Green Bay, 7 p.m., FS North/FS Wisconsin
Nov. 26 - vs. Fresno State, 7 p.m., Midco Sports Net
Dec. 1 - at Western Illinois, 7 p.m., WIU-TV
Dec. 10 - at Arizona State, 2 p.m. MT, FoxSportsArizona.com
Dec. 22 - at Minnesota, 7 p.m., BTN.com
Dec. 28 - vs. Oakland, 7 p.m., Midco Sports Net
Jan. 5 - at Oral Roberts, 7 p.m., Fox College Sports
Jan. 14 - vs. South Dakota, 7:30 p.m., Midco Sports Net
Jan. 17 - at North Dakota, 7 p.m., Fox College Sports/Midco Sports Net/FSSN
Feb. 2 - vs. Southern Utah, 7 p.m., Midco Sports Net
Feb. 11 - at South Dakota, 7 p.m., Midco Sports Net

North Dakota State was picked to finish fifth out of 10 teams in The Summit League in a preseason poll of the league's coaches, sports information directors and media. Oral Roberts received 27 of 32 first-place votes as the preseason favorite, two-time defending champion Oakland had four votes in second place, South Dakota State was third with one top vote, and IUPUI was fourth ahead of NDSU. IPFW, UMKC, Southern Utah, Western Illinois and first-year member South Dakota rounded out the poll in order.

This is North Dakota State's fifth season in The Summit League after spending three seasons as a Division I independent. Other members are Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI); University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC); Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.; Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.; University of South Dakota; South Dakota State University, Southern Utah University; and Western Illinois University. The Summit League will drop to nine teams next year with the addition of the University of Nebraska Omaha from Division II and the departure of Southern Utah to the Big Sky Conference and Oral Roberts to the Southland Conference.

Saul Phillips (Wisconsin-Platteville, 1996) is in his fifth season as head coach at North Dakota State with a 75-55 record. Phillips directed North Dakota State to its first Summit League championship and NCAA Division I tournament appearance in 2009, and was one of 10 finalists for the Hugh Durham Mid-Major Coach of the Year award. A Bison assistant for three seasons, Phillips came to NDSU from Wisconsin, where he was director of basketball operations for three years under Bo Ryan. He was an assistant for two seasons each at Milwaukee and Lake Superior State and a graduate assistant at Wayne State in Nebraska for one year.

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