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TOM MILLER: New version of college hoops fits UND to a tee

Tom Miller portrait

For the time being, the new way of officiating college basketball doesn't make for the prettiest of sport. The whistle frenzy creates a choppy atmosphere that can zap life from the rowdiest of crowds -- like the one assembled in a sold-out Betty Engelstad Sioux Center for UND's matchup with rival North Dakota State on Sunday.

This version of the UND basketball team, though, will gladly accept the fan groans and hair-pulling of coaches.

That's because the fallout of this new edition of college hoops fits UND to a tee. This much was clear as North Dakota never trailed and rolled to a 95-77 victory over the Bison.

With a new emphasis on whistling the slightest contact, you need players who can attack the rim and a capable bench that can withstand the onslaught of fouls.

"It feeds into our offense," UND guard Aaron Anderson said. "We do the pick and roll. If a big hedges and sticks his leg out, it's an automatic foul. That plays into our strength because we're quicker than most teams."

The game with the Bison featured 57 fouls and 77 free throws. NDSU fouled out four starters.

The two taking the most advantage were Anderson and Troy Huff. Huff shot 13-for-17 from the foul line and Anderson was 10-for-12 from the stripe. Huff finished with 32 points. Anderson added 18.

UND's Anderson, Huff, Jamal Webb and Jaron Nash base their games off attacking the hoop. That created foul issues for the Bison, who lost posts Marshall Bjorklund and TrayVonn Wright to five fouls late in the second half.

"With the new points of emphasis that the NCAA has placed on the officials, it's going to be hard to avoid fouls against a team like North Dakota," NDSU coach Saul Phillips said. "They have guards that can go. We didn't contain the ball very well, which is very difficult to do the way the rules are now."

After the game, Anderson and Huff were asked at the postgame press conference what they think of the new emphasis.

UND coach Brian Jones interjected.

"These two like it; that's their game," he said. "They're the wrong ones to ask."

Jones was kidding a little, but he's right.

"We attack," Jones said. "We get to the foul line. Our mindset is we want to get our feet to the paint and make the right play."

But it's not only UND's offensive slashers that are making this style of play beneficial for the Green and White. Just as important is the result defensively when players pick up fouls.

Meaning, it exposes your bench. For UND, that was great against the Bison. For NDSU, this caused some concerns.

UND outscored the Bison 27-11 in bench points. Yet, the bench depth has more value than points. Can you substitute quality big men who can contribute on both ends of the court early in the game when your starters pick up two or three fouls?

Reserves Chad Calcaterra finished with 11 points and two rebounds in 22 minutes and Alonzo Traylor had six points and three rebounds in nine minutes.

"With the new rules, you're going to have to play nine or 10 instead of seven or eight," Jones said. "That's something not a lot of teams are conditioned -- or have recruited -- to do. With this group we have, we are that."

NDSU's Chris Kading (eight points) was the only Bison bench player to chip in more than two points.

"I challenged our bench that they were going to be the difference-maker in this game," Jones said. "We play a couple more guys than they do."

The results are there through three games.

UND opened the season with 110 points against Minnesota Morris, the most for the program since Nov. 24, 2003.

In Game 2, UND's 103-85 loss to Wisconsin was the second-highest total Badgers coach Bo Ryan's team has given up at home in his 13 years as head coach.

Game 3? UND's 95 points were the most the Bison have surrendered in regulation since 2004.

Some of that is a battle-tested veteran team. Some of that is aided by the new rules.

"It's different," Phillips said. "It's the new reality."

It is. And you won't see UND complaining any time soon.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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