Sat. Final: North Dakota St. 77, UWM 69
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- The only thing North Dakota State coach Saul Phillips disliked about his team's victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee was that it was not televised.
His Bison (21-6) defeated the Panthers (15-12) Saturday night 77-69 in one of 51 ESPN Bracket Buster games designed to highlight mid-major teams worthy of going to the NCAA tournament. Phillips was upset it was not one of 13 games ESPN televised.
"I secretly staged a one-man boycott today, quietly in my room," Phillips said of not watching any games Saturday afternoon. "It seems to have had no effect on ESPN. I think this game deserved to be on TV. I'm not afraid to say that there's about three games we were way more marketable than. So, whoever's listening out there 'You won, my boycott's over. But darn it, we should have been on."'
Mike Nelson scored 22 points, Brett Winkelman 15 and Ben Woodside 12 as the Bison downed the Panthers, who only three days earlier had beaten 21st-ranked Butler 63-60.
"They were just better than us tonight," Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said.
Jeter knew what to expect from North Dakota State because he and Phillips were assistants from 1999-2001 under Bo Ryan when he coached Milwaukee.
Phillips said it "was fun to be back in Milwaukee" but he would rather see Jeter win every game he coaches.
"I'd just as soon see Rob go undefeated," he said. "I really respect Rob. Rob's a big brother to me. I'll keep cheering for them."
His team, however, outplayed Jeter's most of the game. The Bison took a lead midway through the first half that it never relinquished despite several Milwaukee comeback efforts that pulled them within five points three times in the second half.
But Milwaukee never got any closer and Jeter said it was because of the team's experience from four fifth-year seniors.
"The difference is their fifth-year seniors and the battles that they've been through and the lessons they learned," he said.
One of them is Nelson, a Madison Memorial graduate who had a homecoming of his own. Although Nelson tied his season-high and his career high is 29 points against Wisconsin-Green Bay on Nov. 25, 2006, he denied he tried harder to prove to those schools they overlooked his talents by not recruiting him.
"I don't think about that too much. I just like the opportunity to come back to my home state with my family and friends here. I thrive off that kind of energy," he said.
For the Panthers, James Eayrs and Ricky Franklin scored 14 points, Deonte Roberts and Avery Smith 11 and Tone Boyle 10.
"I thought North Dakota State played amazingly tonight," Eayrs said.
The Bison led 18-8 after a 3-pointer by Josh Vaughan. Milwaukee fought back to lead 21-20 on a basket by Deonte Roberts but Nelson came right back with a basket to put North Dakota on top for good in the game at 22-21.
North Dakota State led 34-31 at the half. Winkelman's basket with 12:01 left ended a 10-0 run to open the second half that put the Bison up 44-31.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)