MINNEAPOLIS - North Dakota State wanted to prove Thursday night it was more than a Big Ten tune-up for the Minnesota Gophers.
The Bison did, but their effort didn't translate into victory.
The Gophers shook of a sluggish shooting start and made enough plays down the stretch to earn a 63-59 victory in nonconference Division I men's basketball at Williams Arena.
"We didn't come up here expecting to lose," said NDSU sophomore Taylor Braun, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds. "We came up here trying to win. We are a very confident team. We don't care who we play we are not expecting a loss."
The Bison are 0-6 in against the Gophers since NDSU became a Division I program. In the previous five D-I meetings, Minnesota had won those contests by an average of 18 points.
"We haven't done anything in the past to be tabbed as anything other than a warmup," NDSU head coach Saul Phillips said. "We're working toward changing that. We took a step forward tonight, but ultimately it feels hollow."
The Gophers (12-1) are on a six-game winning streak heading into Big Ten play. The Bison (8-3) bolted to a double-digit lead early in the first half, but were unable to parlay that fast start into victory.
"It was one of those heart stoppers for us," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "We knew it was going to be a real battle. ... We had to raise our level of play at the end there."
NDSU took a 53-52 lead with 7 minutes, 48 seconds remaining after Braun scored on a drive to the basket. Gophers guard Maverick Ahanmisi countered with the next four points to vault Minnesota into the lead for good. His 3-point play gave the Gophers a 56-53 lead with 6:32 remaining.
From that point, the Bison would cut the Minnesota lead to one point on two occasions and two points two other times.
Eric Peterson is a writer for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Forum and Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.