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Coach of surprising Bison could win 20 games in first season

FARGO -- Last year's Senior Night presentations for the North Dakota State men's basketball team went so long that it was practically an event in itself. There were six players to honor, all of whom made their mark in some fashion in program history.

FARGO - Last year’s Senior Night presentations for the North Dakota State men’s basketball team went so long that it was practically an event in itself. There were six players to honor, all of whom made their mark in some fashion in program history.
This year will be short and to the point. Lawrence Alexander is the lone senior, although you can pardon head coach Dave Richman if he goes long with his thoughts on Alexander. There’s plenty to talk about.
The thought seemed so emotional to junior forward Kory Brown that he didn’t want to talk much about it on Wednesday.
“L.A.’s last game at home … ooh, man, just thinking about it kind of gives me the shivers,” he said, “so I’ll let that one go for now.”
That event will be Saturday when the Bison host Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne at 2 p.m. at Scheels Arena, which will be the back end of a two-game home stand for the Bison. They take on IUPUI tonight at 7 at Scheels in the last two home games of the season. At 18-8, NDSU has a chance to do something nobody expected this season: win 20 games.
The Bison have a first-year head coach and had to replace an all-conference center and two players currently playing professionally in Europe. Depth has been an issue all season, but yet it’s been manageable in the win column.
“I think 20 wins and having a chance in the Summit League tournament should always be our goal at North Dakota State,” Richman said. “We were picked fifth. I get that from what we lost, but it put a chip on all of our guys’ shoulders and we’ve done a nice job of maintain a let’s-get-better-day-by-day mentality.”
It’s also helped that Alexander is turning in a player of the year-type of season. He’s averaging 19.2 points per game and is third in the country in minutes per game, averaging 38.3 a night. He came in with fellow freshmen Joel Lindberg and Chris Kading, but Kading redshirted and Lindberg’s career was cut short by injury.
“It will be very different knowing that I’m the only one,” Alexander said. “It will be a good night. Bittersweet.”
It would be less bitter if his team got in position to win 20 games. NDSU has three regular season games left plus the tournament.
The Bison are currently tied with South Dakota State atop the league standings at 10-3.
“It’s very gratifying but still unsettling,” Brown said. “We want to have that first place to ourselves.”
Brown said his knee that was injured a week ago at the University of Denver and caused him to miss half of the South Dakota State game on Saturday is much better.
Richman, by the way, is continuing the public awareness campaign for Samaritan’s Feet by coaching tonight’s game barefoot, something former Bison coaches Tim Miles and Saul Phillips did once a season. The program was started in 2008 by former IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter.
Richman’s focus is on the “2015 North Dakota Back to School” effort with a goal of raising enough funds to serve at least 2,015 children in North Dakota this summer with new shoes, socks, backpacks and school supplies. One of the distribution events will be in Fargo.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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