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NDSU's Werner not opposed to playing North Dakota twice in one season

FARGO -- It's the senior season for North Dakota State center Dexter Werner and the school rewarded him nicely with the schedule. He gets to play in a game against the University of North Dakota twice this year.

North Dakota State's Khy Kabellis brings the ball up court against Missouri State at JQH Arena in Springfield, MO on November 27, 2016. Photo by Bruce Stidham / Special to The Forum
North Dakota State's Dexter Werner dunks past Missouri States Alize Johnson at JQH Arena in Springfield, MO on November 27, 2016. FILE PHOTO

FARGO - It's the senior season for North Dakota State center Dexter Werner and the school rewarded him nicely with the schedule. He gets to play in a game against the University of North Dakota twice this year.

There's something about the hard-working, intensity-driven nature of Werner that just fits with this game between two schools 70 miles apart. They play in different conferences and UND has a different nickname than the one Werner used to watch on TV in this game but it's still NDSU vs. UND.

"I don't have a problem with it, being twice," Werner said.

The Bison and Fighting Hawks tip it off at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7 at Scheels Arena at Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Although Arkansas State was the Division I opener for the Bison at the new arena, this game is expected to be the first game with real feelings.

"I grew up watching this game and watching these games happen," said Werner, a Bismarck High School graduate. "It's one game, but at the same time there's that level of excitement and anticipation."

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The teams split the first four games after the rivalry was renewed in 2010. The Bison won the last two - 69-67 in Grand Forks last year and 71-42 in Fargo in 2014.

NDSU comes in 6-3 after a week-long road trip that head coach Dave Richman said seemed like two months. UND is 4-2 with only one road game to date.

Werner has so far written his signature in the last two UND games. He hit 6 of 9 shots and had 17 points two years ago. Last year he had a steal and blocked shot in the last 19 seconds, although he also missed a couple of free throws that would have made life easier on the Bison.

Still, his presence is ever noticeable.

"I've played with Dex a lot over the years," said Bison junior A.J. Jacobson. "Dex will walk out there and he may not look like the guy who will go out and score the most points but that's what he feeds off. This game is like that, and UND overlooked him. No one thought he had a chance to play D1 basketball and it's one of those games where he can go out and prove himself."

The teams play again Dec. 16 at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center in Grand Forks, two days after NDSU hosts California Davis. For Werner, the only senior along with guard Carlin Dupree, it's the last shot at playing the in-state Division I rival.

And he gets to do it twice.

"I look back when we made the move to Division I, they said we couldn't do it with North Dakota kids," Richman said. "He's not only doing it but doing it well for us. These are bigger games just because they are the in-state rivalry, and that's myself included. I'm from Wahpeton and I get more text messages and emails because of who we're playing."

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But, Richman said, it's still a nonconference matchup. NDSU begins Summit League play at the end of the month.

"We treat it in a game-by-game basis," he said.

1603544+USATSI_8464034_168380579_lowres.jpg
March 20, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; North Dakota State Bison forward Dexter Werner (40) is defended by Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) and forward Domantas Sabonis (11) during the first half of the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament at KeyArena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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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