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UND MEN'S BASKETBALL: Dakota games remain a goal

UND is scheduled to join the Big Sky Conference next season, a welcomed move that gives the program stability after a difficult Division I transition -- one that that included major scheduling hassles.

UND is scheduled to join the Big Sky Conference next season, a welcomed move that gives the program stability after a difficult Division I transition -- one that that included major scheduling hassles.

The Big Sky season will give UND 20 games, leaving eight or nine nonconference dates.

And UND coach Brian Jones would like nothing better than to fill those dates with the likes of North Dakota State, South Dakota and South Dakota State.

"The nonconference games that we do play should all be against Dakota schools," Jones said. "That needs to happen from a fan standpoint. And for budgetary reasons, too.

"It's too good of a thing not to play North Dakota State, South Dakota State, South Dakota and even Nebraska-Omaha. That's what fans know.

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"And with our fans continuing to learn what the Big Sky is all about, if we can continue to play those programs that will help."

After NDSU and SDSU went Division I in 2004, annual games between the State schools and UND and South Dakota ended until last season when UND played at NDSU.

NDSU will play UND tonight at Ralph Engelstad Arena -- the first meeting between the rivals in Grand Forks since 2004.

It's likely both UND and the Bison will continue to play each year, although home-and-home dates each season is unlikely.

After NDSU beat UND 81-56 last season before nearly 10,000 fans at the Fargodome, Bison coach Saul Phillips said there was no reason not to continue the rivalry -- given the size of the crowd and the energy in the building.

But annual nonconference games against the three remaining Dakota schools and Nebraska-Omaha -- a program also making the Division I transition -- may be difficult to achieve.

"With 20 (Big Sky) games and us having to play a certain amount of guarantee games, it makes it tough," Jones said.

But it shouldn't be difficult to continue the UND-NDSU rivalry. Tonight's game likely will produce an atmosphere for UND basketball that hasn't existed since the programs played annually.

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The last UND-Bison game at REA went into overtime, with the Green and White winning before nearly 7,000 fans on Feb. 7, 2004.

NDSU is the favorite in tonight's game. The Bison are 13-4 and have wins against Fresno State, San Francisco and Wisconsin-Green Bay. Two of their losses came against Minnesota and Arizona State by a combined seven points.

The Bison are on a roll, winning five of their last six. And during NDSU's game against South Dakota on Saturday, Bison forward TrayVonn Wright delivered a monstrous one-handed dunk that is making the rounds on You Tube.

"They're better than they were last year," Jones said of the Bison. "They have more depth and they're playing at a high level. For us to have a chance, we're going to have to bring our energy and discipline and learn from what we did wrong in last year's game"

Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to wnelson@gfherald.com .

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Who: NDSU at UND.

When: 7 tonight, Ralph Engelstad Arena.

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TV/radio: WDAZ (GF Channel 8), UND Sports Network (GF Chanel 323); Cat Country (100.3 FM).

Records: UND 7-9; NDSU 13-4.

Of note: In the last 10 meetings between the rivals, each team has won five times.

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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