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Bison men's basketball faces up-and-comer

The men's basketball teams from North Dakota State and Idaho crossed paths in the Salt Lake City airport last week. NDSU was on its way home after a season-opening loss at Utah Valley. Idaho was on its way to Texas after an historic season-openin...

The men's basketball teams from North Dakota State and Idaho crossed paths in the Salt Lake City airport last week.

NDSU was on its way home after a season-opening loss at Utah Valley. Idaho was on its way to Texas after an historic season-opening win at Utah.

The two teams, riding recent waves of success, meet today in the Bison Sports Arena.

"They are good. They are really good," NDSU head coach Saul Phillips said of Idaho. "The progress this program has made since we started playing them has been nothing short of remarkable."

After posting its first winning season in a decade last year, Idaho opened this season with a 94-87 win at perennial power Utah. It was the Vandals' first win over Utah since 1938.

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"It was a great win for us," said second-year head coach Don Verlin. "The sad thing is, we didn't get ready to play at Texas Southern."

Picked to finish second in the Western Athletic Conference, Idaho suffered a

72-65 loss at Texas Southern. The 1-1 Vandals have had all week to prepare for the 1-1 Bison.

A team loaded with depth, Idaho is led by guard Mac Hopson, a transfer from Washington State and guard Steffan Johnson, a transfer from Pacific.

Hopson and returners Luciano DeSouza, Marvin Jefferson and Kashif Watson accounted for 63 points in Idaho's 78-69 win over last year's Bison - a Ben Woodside-led team that reached the NCAA tournament.

"I don't think it matters that Ben Woodside is gone," Verlin said. "Some of the names may be different, but the system is the same and that will equate to a lot of wins. That's how much respect I have for their program."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

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