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AJ Jacobson, Khy Kabellis becoming 40-minute fixtures for North Dakota State Bison men's basketball

FARGO -- The North Dakota State player rotation has shrunk since the Summit League men's basketball season has started, and never is that more evident than in the minutes-played category. These days, about the only time sophomore forward A.J. Jac...

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A.J. Jacobson of North Dakota State, left, pulls away from Darian Harris of Oral Roberts during their basketball game Feb. 4 in Fargo. (FNS Photo by Michael Vosburg)

FARGO - The North Dakota State player rotation has shrunk since the Summit League men’s basketball season has started, and never is that more evident than in the minutes-played category. These days, about the only time sophomore forward A.J. Jacobson and freshman guard Khy Kabellis leave the floor is during timeouts and halftime.
They’ve become the 40-minute men.
“Yeah, it can be a little mentally straining at times,” Jacobson said, “but you want to do what the coaching staff wants you to do, and that is to put it all out there. I’ll play as many minutes as they want me to play.”
NDSU has been without leading scorer Paul Miller for most of the last two games because of a knee injury, and head coach Dave Richman said Tuesday his status remains day-to-day. The Bison hit the road for a game today at the University of South Dakota and in a Saturday clash at Nebraska-Omaha trying to remain in the hunt for a regular-season title. NDSU is in fifth place at 6-4, but only two games behind league leader South Dakota State in a bunched-up mess between the top five.
Jacobson played all 80 minutes in NDSU’s two wins last week, averaging 21 points, 5.5 rebounds while shooting 65 percent from the field. Even more impressive: He was 9 of 15 from 3-point range.
His 20 points against Oral Roberts and the 22 against Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne were his two highest scoring games of the season, and he was rewarded with his first Summit League Player of the Week award. His accuracy from the 3-point arc can only bolster his game as a 6-foot-6 player who has the physical ability to take it to the lane.
“A.J. has played so well this season, he just hasn’t shot it well,” Richman said. “Now that he’s seeing it go through, I think that can only help his confidence.”
Kabellis played most of all 40 minutes in both games, although technically he went to the bench with a few seconds left in the first half against IPFW to prevent him from picking up a foul. At 215 pounds, Jacobson appears to have the strength to maintain a 40-minute pace per game. It’s questionable if the 170-pound Kabellis will be able to do it on a nightly basis, but he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
“It’s a lot more tiring than high school, the physicality and the speed,” Kabellis said. “I just try to get an ice bath in afterward.”
Richman gives the full-game credit to the strength and conditioning staff, comparing it to the Bison football team and how it praises its offseason programs. Also, with just six regular-season games left, with four of them on the road, practices have been shortened if not eliminated altogether - like Monday when the Bison took the day off.
“Being smart in practice,” Richman said.
The effort part is being conserved for games, especially on defense, which has been an emphasis for NDSU the last few years. Last Saturday, Kabellis was largely responsible for holding high-scoring IPFW guard Max Landis to nine points -- one game after he went off for 44 against South Dakota.
“You’ll find your way to the bench if you take any time off on defense,” Jacobson said. “It’s one of those things where you have to play every possession like it’s your last possession.”

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