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Notre Dame

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‘Worst fears’ realized: Bison pull off upset of Irish

– Most college basketball fans around the country probably aren’t familiar with the name Marshall Bjorklund.

If the senior forward has more games like he had Wednesday night at Notre Dame, they’ll find out about him soon enough.

Bjorklund scored 26 points, one off his career high, to lead North Dakota State to a road upset over the Irish, 73-69, in the third round of the Gotham Classic at Purcell Pavilion.

Bjorklund is third in the country in field-goal shooting percentage at 69.7, he’s also the NCAA’s active career leader in field-goal percentage and ranks fourth all-time at 66.7 percent, behind only Bill Walton, Lew Alcindor and Akeem Olajuwon.

Against Notre Dame, he hit 11 of his 14 shots from the field and had five rebounds and four assists.

“It’s hard for people to wrap their brains around it, but we’ve got a really good post player in Fargo, North Dakota,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “He does that to a lot of people. He played against (Cody) Zeller last year at Indiana and had a really good game.”

Lawrence Alexander added 16 points and 14 rebounds to help the Bison (7-3) earn their fifth straight win. Pat Connaughton scored 21 to lead Notre Dame (7-3).

Jerian Grant hit a pair of free throws to get the Irish within one point, 67-66, after Bjorklund fouled out with 42.1 seconds left, but Taylor Braun knocked down a pair from the line then stole the ball as the Irish pressed for a shot. He fed it ahead to Kory Brown, who slammed it in with 16 seconds left to seal the victory. Braun finished with 13 points.

“I really like this group,” Phillips said. “This will do wonders for us.”

Grant, Notre Dame’s leading scorer at 19.8 points per game coming in, managed just nine points, all from the foul line. Grant was 0 of 5 from the field and attempted just two shots in the second half.

“I was very worried about this one, and my worst fears came true,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. “They’re a very good, old, experienced team. You’ve got to be better offensively to escape them.”

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