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Athletic ability, length set ORU apart from Bison

Tulsa, Okla. There is a 200-foot structure on the Oral Roberts University campus, an easy bounce pass away from the school's basketball arena, called the Prayer Tower. Ben Woodside and the North Dakota State Bison must've felt there were a couple...

Tulsa, Okla.

There is a 200-foot structure on the Oral Roberts University campus, an easy bounce pass away from the school's basketball arena, called the Prayer Tower. Ben Woodside and the North Dakota State Bison must've felt there were a couple of more Prayer Towers inside the Mabee Center on Thursday night.

In their Summit League debut, a landmark event that drew an announced crowd of 4,159 (wink, wink) to the campus of one of the world's most famous television evangelists, the Bison learned again that length and athleticism is a tough combination to overcome for this group of overachievers from Fargo.

Woodside, the Bison's star who entered the game averaging a tidy 25.3 points per contest, was held to a season-low six on a Williams Arena-like 2 of 10 shooting. Other than the Steady Eddie forward named Brett Winkelman, the rest of the Bison didn't fare much better in a 69-57 loss.

Just a few days removed from missing 40 of 60 shots in a lopsided loss at Minnesota, the Bison had another abysmal shooting night. This time the historically efficient crew went 20 of 58 (34.5 percent) and made just 5 of 15 from 3-point range.

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If we were fooled by a string of early-season offensive explosions by NDSU, we've now been reminded of a hard truth: Minot State and Mayville State are long gone.

"Their length bothered us, no question," Bison coach Saul Phillips said. "We didn't do a good job of handling it. They are long like a high major, there's no doubt about that."

"Length" is coachspeak for a player's height plus his wing span. Oral Roberts had an abundance of both. Senior forward Yemi Ogunoye is a lanky 6-foot-9, with a reach to Oklahoma City. Senior center Shawn King is 6-10, with long arms and excellent leaping ability.

Those two players caused fits for all the Bison, but particularly Woodside. Ogunoye was the Golden Eagle assigned to defend Woodside, and even with a 10-inch height advantage was quick enough to stick with the Bison point guard. If Woodside happened to spurt past Ogunoye and drive to the basket, King was there to offer his assistance. He swatted three Woodside shots.

"They did a great job on the screen and roll getting the ball out of my hands right away in the offense," Woodside said, echoing words he spoke after the Gophers held him to a quiet 17 points Monday in Minneapolis. "They're long. If I got in the paint, a guy would come from the weak side. I tried to shot fake, but they stayed down on their feet and I couldn't get them up in the air. They did a great job."

NDSU is still in the netherworld of transitioning to Division I, so the Bison's statistics don't count in the NCAA's eyes. If they did, Woodside would've begun Thursday as the third-leading scorer in the country. Other teams are obviously taking notice. Minnesota double-teamed him at every opportunity and it was clear Oral Roberts was paying special attention.

"Definitely, but I have to overcome that," Woodside said. "If they are doubling me, there is somebody else open on the floor and I have to get them the ball. It seems like there is a lot of focus on me, but we have to work around that."

The Bison have lost two straight, but all is not yet lost. The Gophers were a revived Big Ten program and Oral Roberts is a strong mid-major. The Golden Eagles will again be one of the Summit League's strongest teams.

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The problem is, NDSU is no longer sneaking up on anybody. Opponents know of the Bison's handiwork against Wisconsin and Marquette. And they certainly know of Woodside. There won't be many breaks in the remaining 20 games.

"We knew he was the third-leading scorer and we knew they were never going to quit," Ogunoye said. "They beat big teams in the past so they knew what they are capable of doing and we knew what they are capable of doing. When they came at us with a charge, we had to answer back."

The Bison travel to play at Centenary on Saturday. The Gents beat South Dakota State on Thursday and already have a victory over Bobby Knight's Texas Tech team so far this season. If Phillips made a visit to the Prayer Tower sometime before departing for Shreveport, La., who could blame him?

Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or mmcfeely@forumcomm.com . McFeely's blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com

Athletic ability, length set ORU apart from Bison Mike McFeely 20071207

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