GAME NOTES: Longtime instate foes will renew their rivalry on Sunday afternoon when North Dakota takes on North Dakota State at the Fargodome.
North Dakota has had a rough go of it in the first month of the season, as its only win in six tries came on Nov. 14 at home against Crown College (87-51). It hasn't had much luck in recent weeks, having lost its last three games by a combined nine points, most recently dropping a heartbreaker at home to UMKC, 73-70.
The Bison have encountered very few stumbling blocks en route to a 7-2 record, with their only two losses coming in difficult road matchups against Green Bay (74-59) and top-ranked Indiana (87-61). NDSU opened up its Summit League schedule on Nov. 29 with an easy 95-51 win over Omaha, then it followed that up with a strong road victory over Morehead State last Wednesday, 69-57.
This historic series has seen 287 all-time matchups, with North Dakota holding a 158-129 lead. The teams have split the two meetings in the past two seasons after having not played one another since 2003.
North Dakota was down by nine points with under 10 minutes to play against UMKC, and it battled all the way back to make it just a one-point game with five seconds left, but it could not complete the comeback. The team shot an impressive 25-of-50 from the field on the night, but it can ultimately blame the loss on an awful night at the foul line (14-of-30). Jamal Webb couldn't buy a free throw (0-of-6), but he was fantastic from the field (9-of-11), finishing with 20 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and three steals. Aaron Anderson added 11 points and Josh Schuler chipped in 10 points in the setback. Points have been difficult to come by in the early going for UND, as it shoots just 41.2 percent from the field for 65.3 ppg. Anderson scores a team-high 11.8 ppg, but he does so on just 32.2 percent shooting. Schuler (10.5 ppg) and Webb (9.2 ppg) are also integral to the scoring attack.
Not only has NDSU been great on the offensive end of the floor, shooting 47.1 percent from the floor for nearly 73.0 ppg, but it also keeps its opponents off the scoreboard (36.7 field goal percentage defense, 58.1 scoring defense), resulting in an outstanding +14.8 scoring margin. It wasn't quite the blowout the Bison are used to in the 12-point win over Morehead State, but they built a double-digit lead in the first half and never looked back. Taylor Braun knocked down 11-of-12 from the free throw line and finished with 23 points and nine rebounds. While no other player scored in double figures, all but two of the 11 players who saw action in the win scored. Braun has been the catalyst thus far, piling up team-highs in points (15.2 ppg), rebounds (6.7 pg), and assists (3.6 pg), while adding more than a steal per contest. Marshall Bjorklund (11.2 ppg) and Mike Felt (11.1 ppg) are also consistent scorers, and Lawrence Alexander (9.1 ppg) and TrayVonn Wright (9.0 ppg) are on the doorstep of double figures.
NDSU has been consistently strong on both ends of the floor this season, and the exact opposite could be said about North Dakota. Behind their balanced scoring attack, the Bison should make easy work of their rival in this one.
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