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North Dakota State Bisons guard Taylor Braun (24) attempts a shot against the Fort Wayne Mastodons in the championship game of the Summit Conference tournament at Sioux Falls Sports. North Dakota State defeated Fort Wayne 60-57. Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Braun's late game heroics give Bison berth into NCAA tournament

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Braun's late game heroics give Bison berth into NCAA tournament
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Ben Woodside just got some late game, North Dakota State men’s basketball history, NCAA-dancing highlight company. His name is Taylor Braun.


The Bison senior shed a frustrating night in the final three minutes to will his team to a 60-57 win over Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne and the league’s automatic ticket to the NCAA tournament.

His three-point play on an unlikely shot with 12 seconds left was the difference. It gave the Bison a 59-55 lead in a game that had every bit of the drama of the 2009 Summit title game that the Bison won on Woodside’s shot.

“It’s indescribable how I feel right now,” said forward TrayVonn Wright, who led the Bison with 19 points in yet another fine performance at the Sioux Falls Arena. “This building has been good to me. I can say that.”

It wasn’t an offensive masterpiece with each possession having mounting pressure as the game wound down to the final minutes.

Braun’s 3-pointer with 2:45 left gave NDSU a rare lead at 54-53. Later, his drive with 1:18 left gave the Bison a 56-55 advantage.

Center Steve Forbes missed on the other end for IPFW. With the shot clock winding down, Braun’s scoop shot while getting hacked by Forbes went in.

“I knew I could get to the lane,” Braun said. “I pumped fake, and I knew he would go up. I threw it up there, and it went in.”

The Bison-friendly crowd of 4,263 erupted. He converted the three-point, making it 59-55 – NDSU’s largest lead of the game.

It was going to be Braun’s shot the whole way. During the timeout, head coach Saul Phillips said he was drawing up a play when Braun told him in so many words that he wanted the shot.

It was like a scene from the movie “Hoosiers,” Phillips said.

“Taylor looked at me in his Jimmy Chitwood moment,” Phillips said, referring to the character in the movie that won the game. “He said, ‘Run the play. I’ll rip it up.’ When he said it so forcefully, it was a no-brainer.”

Like Chitwood did in the movie, Braun held the ball near halfcourt until about seven seconds were left on the shot clock, and then drove the lane and made the play of the game. Ironically, Braun worked out this summer with Woodside, who is playing professionally in Italy.

“I’m sure he’s proud of you,” Phillips said, looking at Braun. “He’s like a big brother in Europe right now.”

The Mastodons got a rebound bucket from Joe Reed with three seconds left. NDSU’s Kory Brown made one of two free throws with 2.2 seconds, and a desperation shot from just beyond halfcourt at the buzzer missed for IPFW.

A mob converged on the players at midcourt.

“This is why you do it,” Phillips said. “My two (little) kids in yellow and green overalls disappeared in the middle, in the scrum, and I was just at the mercy of the kind fans from North Dakota.”

They thanked Braun. He was 5 of 14 and finished with 15 points, with eight of them coming in the final 3:37. But that’s when he showed his Summit Player of the Year moxie.

“I was in a little bit of a hurry,” Braun said. “I was rushing my finishes. The players, coaches, staff, they all stayed confident in me. They all believed in me.”

It was a difficult night for NDSU to get any kind of a run going. It did not score more than four in a row all game.

IPFW also struggled offensively, shooting just 32 percent in the second half.

“When you get here, you have guys laying it on the line every possession,” said IPFW head coach Tony Jasick. “In a game like this with two teams playing their butts off, it’s hard to get clean looks.”

IPFW (24-10): Jacobo 3-14 2-2 9, Kibiloski 3-7 0-0 9, Forbes 3-9 2-3 8, Bland 4-6 0-0 9, McCray 2-2 3-4 8, Evans 0-4 0-0 0, Reed 2-2 3-4 7, Edwards 3-5 1-1 7. Totals: 20-49 11-14 57.

NDSU (25-6): Wright 8-13 1-1 19, Bjorklund 4-7 4-6 12, Alexander 1-9 0-0 2, Brown 2-4 3-4 7, Braun 5-14 3-3 15, Felt 0-2 0-0 0, Dupree 0-1 0-0 0, Kading 2-2 0-0 5, Aaberg 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 22-54 11-14 60.

Halftime: IPFW 35, NDSU 30. Total fouls: IPFW 18, NDSU 13. Fouled out: Bjorklund. 3-point goals: IPFW 6-17 (Jacobo 1-6, Kibiloski 3-6, Bland 1-2, McCray 1-1, Evans 0-2); NDSU 5-16 (Wright 2-6, Alexander 0-4, Braun 2-3, Felt 0-2, Kading 1-1). Assists: IPFW 10 (Bland 5); NDSU 7 (Brown 4). Turnovers: IPFW 10 (two with 3); NDSU 4 (four with 4). A-4,263.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.