Cowboys down Bison

LARAMIE, Wyo. -- North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips told his team, maybe only half-jokingly, that if they beat Wyoming with the week they had, they wouldn't have to practice again.

Joel Lindberg
AP Photo Wyoming's DeeJay Luster drives to the basket as North Dakota State's Joel Lindberg defends during a College Basketball Invitational tournament game Wednesday in Laramie, Wyo.

LARAMIE, Wyo. -- North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips told his team, maybe only half-jokingly, that if they beat Wyoming with the week they had, they wouldn't have to practice again.

Phillips almost had to live up to his promise.

NDSU, off since March 4, came together in a day following being selected by the College Basketball Invitational tournament on Sunday, then pushed Wyoming to the limit on Wednesday, falling 78-75 in Laramie.

The season ends for NDSU at 17-14, but with a much better feeling than bowing out of the Summit League quarterfinals 10 days ago.

"I expected to win the game and we didn't," Phillips said. "It doesn't dampen my enthusiasm for this group for the future. These guys symbolize what we're all about and what we're headed toward. We had a senior play some spot minutes. But what you saw there outside of that was a junior college team eligibility-wise.


"They're going to be good and be heard from again."

They came within an eyelash of being heard from Wednesday.

Five Bison players scored in double figures, led by sophomore TrayVonn Wright with 15 points. Wright, who had made only 10 3-pointers all season, was 3 of 6 on trey attempts as the Bison hit 7 of 17 3-pointers.

Sophomore Marshall Bjorklund added 14 points and five rebounds before fouling out late in the game. Sophomore Taylor Braun scored 13 points and tied for team-high honors with seven rebounds. Freshman Lawrence Alexander had 12 points and seven boards.

The 75 points NDSU scored were the most Wyoming has allowed this season.

Not bad for a team that didn't practice as a complete team until Tuesday.

"This was a very hectic week," Braun said. "A bunch of us were in different parts of the country. I was in Arizona and flew out to Denver to meet the team. Once the game started, we just wanted to come out and play hard and the outcome was going to be whatever it was."

Wyoming (21-10) looked like it would knock the Bison out several times during the game.


UW led 26-19 with 8 minutes left in the first half, but a 13-2 run, capped by a Mike Felt 3-pointer, gave the Bison their biggest lead of the game at 32-28.

Wyoming used a 9-1 run to start the second half to build a 46-38 cushion. Down 11 with 13:22 to go, NDSU battled back to tie the game at 61-61 with 8 minutes to play.

Alexander missed two free throws with 4:17 to go and NDSU down a point. Wyoming scored the next five points and led 72-66 with 3 minutes to play. Down by two with under a minute to go, Alexander missed a jumper that would have tied the game.

NDSU had one final chance with 2 seconds left, but Wright's desperation 3-pointer was wide left.

Wyoming made enough free throws down the stretch to put the game away.

The Cowboys ended up making 29 of 41 free throws, compared to just 14 of 22 for NDSU.

Leonard Washington led Wyoming with 22 points and 11 rebounds while Francisco Cruz added 14 points. Former Bismarck High standout Luke Martinez added nine points and 10 rebounds.

"It was great to be playing," Phillips said. "It was a great basketball game. Our guys had a disjointed week, a lot going on, and it didn't look like it. That's what I'm most proud of. We scored against a team that's really good at not allowing people to score.


"It took a pretty phenomenal night for us to put up 75."

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