Gophers survive NDSU’s upset bidMINNEAPOLIS — North Dakota State wanted to prove Thursday night it was more than a Big Ten tune-up for the Minnesota Gophers. The Bison did, but their effort didn’t translate into victory.
By: Eric Peterson, Forum Communications Co.
MINNEAPOLIS — North Dakota State wanted to prove Thursday night it was more than a Big Ten tune-up for the Minnesota Gophers.
The Bison did, but their effort didn’t translate into victory.
The Gophers shook of a sluggish shooting start and made enough plays down the stretch to earn a 63-59 victory in nonconference Division I men’s basketball at Williams Arena.
“We didn’t come up here expecting to lose,” said NDSU sophomore Taylor Braun, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. “We came up here trying to win. We are a very confident team. We don’t care who we play we are not expecting a loss.”
The Bison are 0-6 against the Gophers since becoming a Division I program. In the previous five D-I meetings, Minnesota had won by an average of 18 points.
“We haven’t done anything in the past to be tabbed as anything other than a warmup,” NDSU head coach Saul Phillips said. “We’re working toward changing that. We took a step forward tonight, but ultimately it feels hollow.”
The Gophers (12-1) are on a six-game win streak heading into Big Ten play. The Bison (8-3) bolted to a double-digit lead early in the first half, but were unable to parlay that fast start into victory.
“It was one of those heart stoppers for us,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. “We knew it was going to be a real battle. … We had to raise our level of play at the end there.”
NDSU took a 53-52 lead with 7 minutes, 48 seconds remaining after Braun scored on a drive to the basket. Gophers guard Maverick Ahanmisi countered with the next four points to vault Minnesota into the lead for good. His 3-point play gave the Gophers a 56-53 lead with 6:32 remaining.
From that point, the Bison would cut Minnesota’s lead to one point on two occasions and two points two other times.
“We had plenty of opportunities,” Braun said. “We had a lot of open shots down the stretch that we missed. I thought that we had a lot of good looks and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Senior center Ralph Sampson III scored an inside basket with 1:37 remaining to give the Gophers a 61-57 lead. Sampson added two free throws with 13 seconds to play for the final margin.
“I just look at is as a learning experience,” said NDSU guard Dylan Hale, who had a career-high 13 points.
NDSU got off to a strong start, building a 12-point lead less than seven minutes into the game.
Five different Bison scored during that stretch. Sophomore Marshall Bjorklund staked NDSU to a 14-2 lead on a dunk with 13 minutes, 4 seconds to play in the first half.
“I thought we had them a little bit on their heels to start,” Phillips said.
The Gophers were 1 of 13 from the field to start the game, but clawed back behind strong defense.
Ahanmisi hit a foul shot with 1:48 remaining in the half to give Minnesota a 28-27 lead, its first lead of the game.
“We know come Big Ten play, we can’t do that,” Gophers forward Rodney Williams of the slow start to the first half.
During the postgame news conference Phillips offered to cook for the Gophers if they agreed to play in Fargo in the future and play a game in the Fargodome.
Smith needed more than the free meal offer to commit.
“No, that’s not going to be enough,” Smith said. “Is he going to cook Bison meat?”
NORTH DAKOTA STATE (8-3): Braun 5-8 3-4 13, Wright 1-5 0-0 2, Bjorklund 3-5 3-6 9, Alexander 5-17 1-4 11, Hale 5-10 0-0 13, Felt 3-8 0-0 9, Aaberg 1-1 0-0 2, Lindberg 0-0 0-0 0, Carlson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 7-14 59.
MINNESOTA (12-1): Au. Hollins 1-5 0-0 3, Williams 5-7 3-8 14, Sampson III 4-8 7-8 15, Welch 2-7 0-0 5, Ahanmisi 4-4 3-5 13, An. Hollins 0-3 0-0 0, Coleman 0-2 0-0 0, Armelin 3-6 0-0 7, Ingram 0-0 0-0 0, Osenieks 0-1 0-0 0, Eliason 2-3 2-3 6. Totals 21-46 15-24 63.
Halftime: Minnesota 32-29. 3-pointers: N. Dakota St. 6-22 (Hale 3-7, Felt 3-8, Wright 0-1, Alexander 0-6), Minnesota 6-14 (Ahanmisi 2-2, Welch 1-1, Williams 1-1, Armelin 1-2, Au. Hollins 1-5, Coleman 0-1, An. Hollins 0-2). Total fouls: NDSU 21, Minnesota 13. Fouled out: Wright. Rebounds: NDSU 39 (Braun 11), Minnesota 28 (Williams 8). Assists: NDSU 11 (Alexander 4), Minnesota 12 (Ahanmisi 3). A: 11,681.
Peterson is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.