SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Before it leaves for the Western Athletic Conference at the end of this year, Missouri-Kansas City almost WACked North Dakota State.
But a strong second half sent one of the Summit League's longest-standing members permanently out of sight in men's basketball in the first round of the Summit tournament. The Bison rebounded from a halftime deficit against the heavy underdog Kangaroos to take a 69-58 victory at the Sioux Falls Arena.
NDSU advanced to face Western Illinois in one semifinal tonight. The Bison will be looking for a better start than the one they turned in against Kansas City. It was the Kangaroos who looked to be the more inspired team.
It's not what Bison junior Taylor Braun wanted to hear, who wanted no part of an upset and he let his actions do the talking. He had 24 of his 27 points in the second half.
"They came out and pressured me tough and I was playing pretty soft," Braun said. "I had to gather my thoughts and play normal basketball."
It was NDSU's first Summit tournament win since the '09 team reached the NCAA tournament.
"I can't speak for everyone but my heart was racing just knowing we came down here and not had the success," Braun said. "It's been a short stay for us in Sioux Falls so it's nice to stay another night."
It also further illustrated that Braun looks full speed in just his third game coming back from a broken bone in his foot, prompting head coach Saul Phillips to pay tribute to Sanford Health executive Kelby Krabbenhoft.
"I told Kelby I'm getting a Sanford tattoo," Phillips joked. "What those doctors did is unbelievable."
The Bison won the two regular season meetings by an average of 28 points, but the Kangaroos came out with other ideas. Playing inspired defense, they took a 22-19 halftime lead frustrating the Bison on several offensive possessions.
"We came out with the idea we could play with anybody," said UMKC forward Thomas Staton. "We were right there."
NDSU, which averaged 11 turnovers during the season, had 11 by halftime.
Braun had four of those mistakes to go with 0 of 2 from the field. Moreover, its seven made field goals was the fewest in a first half since a loss to Kansas City last year.
The error-filled first half prompted Bison head coach Saul Phillips to tell a television sideline reporter he was about to have some pointed words for his team at intermission.
"It was more calm than you think," he said after the game. "I think I know them well enough when they need to be fired up and when they need to be settled down. Some would say we were overlooking somebody but I saw us doing things we weren't capable of."
Whatever happened, it worked. A 17-3 run sparked by Braun, center Marshall Bjorklund and guard Lawrence Alexander gave NDSU its first breathing room of the night. It was 38-29 at the midway point of the second half.
The spread expanded to 14 points in the final three minutes. Bjorklund finished with a double-double - 18 points and 10 rebounds.
"We're a veteran team and we know what we did wrong," Bjorklund said. "We came out and fixed it in the second half."
Said UMKC head coach Matt Brown: "The second half it was Bjorklund and other folks out there. We had a really good game plan, I thought we should have been up by double figures at half.
UMKC (8-24): Staton 3-10 2-4 8, Chatmon 3-5 1-4 7, Kirksey 2-4 0-0 4, Wedel 0-3 0-0 0, Tyler 2-10 2-2 8, Rogers 3-3 0-0 9, Washington 0-0 2-2 2, Hall 4-10 4-4 14, Reid 1-2 2-4 4, Korver 1-2 0-0 2. Totals: 19-50 13-20 58.
NDSU (23-8): Wright 2-4 0-0 6, Bjorklund 9-14 0-2 18, Alexander 5-10 2-2 14, Brown 0-1 0-1 0, Braun 5-9 16-18 27, Felt 0-2 0-0 0, VandenBergh 0-0 0-0 0, Kading 0-0 0-0 0, Zastrow 0-0 2-4 2. Totals: 22-41 20-27 69.
Halftime: UMKC 22, NDSU 19. Total fouls: UMKC 25, NDSU 16. Fouled out: Kirksey. Rebounds: UMKC 25 (Reid 7); NDSU 35 (Bjorklund 10). 3-point goals: UMKC 7-20 (Kirksey 0-2, Wedel 0-3, Tyler 2-6, Rogers 3-3, Hall , Korver ); NDSU (Wright 2-4, Alexander 2-3, Braun 1-2, Felt 0-2). Assists: UMKC 16 (Tyler 3), NDSU 10 (Brown 4). Turnovers: UMKC 7, NDSU 14. A-3,786.
Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found