In the first 38 minutes of Thursday night’s game against Oklahoma, North Dakota State dominated.
The Bison hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer in big situations, got the the rim easily and clogged up the interior on the other side to keep the Sooners away from it.
But with less than two minutes to go, OU was ahead.
“It’s Lon Kruger sitting on the other bench,” NDSU coach Saul Phillips said. “He found some ways to keep them in the game.
“When you’re operating on all cylinders, everybody is a good coach. When you really, really are needed is when things are kind of breaking loose on you. And it’s harder to be them than us in this situation. It is. … I’ve been on the other side of it. It’s hard.
“If we lose, everybody would’ve been disappointed back home for a night, and then they would’ve talked about how great of a season we had.”
Phillips said the Sooners could be a force in the near future.
“Tell you one thing right now, do not sleep on this Oklahoma program in the next couple years,” he said. “Because with the youth that they have, the talent that they have, Lon’s going to have this thing cranked up pretty good, sooner or later.”
SOONERS PASSIVE IN LANE
The Sooners made 13 of 18 foul shots vs. North Dakota State. But OU had just eight foul shots going into the final two minutes of regulation.
The Sooners did not attack the basket with regularity. On OU’s final possession, Isaiah Cousins drove the baseline and got into the lane. But instead of going up for a shot, Cousins passed into the corner to Buddy Hield, who missed a 3-pointer. OU also missed two follow shots in the final seconds.
“Got exactly what we wanted,” Kruger said. “Isaiah was a little iso(lation) for that wing and get to the rim and make play. I don’t know if he bobbled it it there when he got to the rim or didn’t feel quite comfortable finishing there, but we had two or three looks at it.”
A LESSON LEARNED
Phillips wasn’t done with his praise for Kruger.
“He did something tonight, how about this, you talk about good coaching,” Phillips said. “I hadn’t even thought of this. Thirty-nine seconds left in the first half, we score, the clock runs, he tells his guy not to inbound until there’s 35 seconds to go and I’m thinking to myself we’re in trouble because I never even thought of doing something like that. I got to put that in my playbook. I learned something from Lon tonight.”
CLARK GOES OUT BIG
After the game, Oklahoma senior Cam Clark reflected on his career with the Sooners.
“It was great. I learned a lot from the University of Oklahoma,” Clark said. “Coach did a great job of coaching me. I feel like he’s the best coach I ever had. And it’s been a great four years.
“Just looking back on it, I loved playing with these guys and I’m just looking for them to do great things in the future.”
While Clark’s career ended with a loss, he went out in fine form.
Clark had 25 points, with all but three coming in the second half and overtime.
PHYSICAL GAME TAKES ITS TOLL
Several North Dakota State players walked off the court following their win bloodied and/or bruised.
“Down low it was almost like a bar fight,” Bison forward Marshall Bjorklund said.
“So you hear,” Phillips interjected.
Bjorklund said Ryan Spangler made it tough for the Bison on the inside.
“Spangler was a great — he’s a good player, very physical,” Bjorklun said. “We knew that coming in. Just the whole game the refs were kind of letting us play and so we kind of played like that to our favor and we have dealt with games like that all year.
“The whole way through, man, it was physical.”
“When Carlin (Dupree) plays basketball, somebody’s band is going to be playing, okay? Sometimes it’s yours, sometimes it’s theirs.” — Phillips, on Dupree’s contributions in overtime, which included a pair of free throws and a layup that put the Bison up for good.