The NCAA on Wednesday: OU, pressure is off and Wazzu

The NCAA on Wednesday: OU, pressure is off and Wazzu
Profile photo of Jeff Kolpack

The ins and outs of what you need to know about the NDSU and Oklahoma matchup:

  • The Sooners like the perimeter shot and won’t hesitate to put up a 3-pointer at any second (they were 273 of 722 this year for 38 percent compared to NDSU’s 458 attempts). They’re similar in that regard to the University of Denver, which hit 15 against the Bison late in the regular season but only one in the Summit League tournament. This is a game that includes an Oklahoma team that was seventh in the country in scoring and an NDSU team that led the country in field goal percentage. So where will defense figure in? “The first team to figure out a way to get stops, that’s going to be very important,” said head coach Saul Phillips. “I know you look at their defensive stats, I think they’re skewed because I think they have played a lot better defense as the year has gone on.”
  • NDSU is considered the bigger physical team, although it didn’t look like it from the naked eye in the Wednesday practice sessions. Perhaps it’s because the Sooners have more guys in the 6-4 to 6-7 range than NDSU. The Bison have the better player at the center position and they will need a 65 to 70 percent shooting night from Marshall Bjorklund. They also need to keep the big guy out of foul trouble, something he’s been much better at in the last month of the season.
  • The most consistent player in NDSU’s Summit tourney two-game run was forward TrayVonn Wright. He was fabulous and the Bison will need him to drain at least two or three 3-pointers and contribute a couple game-changing dunks. On that note, the Bison also need a better performance from point guard Lawrence Alexander than what he provided in the Summit title game. Alexander on Wednesday compared Oklahoma’s offense to Notre Dame. “They spread you out, penetrate, try to get flat-footed 3s,” he said. “But I believe if we stick to our principles, play defense, we’ll be able to come out with a ‘W.’”
  • Taylor Braun grew up about 400 miles from Spokane in Newberg, Ore. He’ll have about 30 family and friends at the game. “It’s nice being back in the Northwest but I’m still far from home,” he said.
  • Phillips admitted in the NCAA press conference that his team was tight for the Summit League title game against IPFW. “I know this is going to sound silly to people in this room but when you’re a mid-major and you’re in a one-bid league, in a lot of ways the conference tournament presents more pressure than the next step,” he said. “Everybody wants to make the big dance. This is the big show. When you’re dealing with that and when you’re dealing with the singular goal of these guys for four or five years has been to make it here, yeah, I was feeling tight.”
  • Phillips was asked about ESPN’s Andy Katz tweeting that Phillips should be a candidate for the vacancy at Washington State, located just down the road from Spokane. Phillips said nobody has contacted him. “And you know what? I really like my boss and I really like my school and if I was thinking about anything other than this group of guys right now that would be about as selfish as you could get,” he said. “You got to understand we’re up in Fargo, man. I get on the inforum. But to see some national people talking about us, that’s fun. They’re just not talking about me, our team did this.”

 

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