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Define Clutch

by Dan Gunderson

The word clutch has many meanings. For the sports fan, we look at it as a measure on how big of an impact a player has in late game situations. Can you make the throw when it matters? Drive in the runner in the bottom of the ninth? If you can do this, you are labeled as clutch.

Taylor Braun, by this definition, is clutch.

The North Dakota State University senior guard scored 10 of NDSU's last 11 points in Tuesday nights 60-57 victory over Fort Wayne in the Summit League title game. The win allowed NDSU to punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament for the second time in school history.

The game was anything but pretty and so was Braun's game as the two teams approached the four minute mark of the second half. With 3:37 to go in the game, Braun hit two free throws. Nothing special about free throws. One. Two. Both going down for Braun.

A minute later, Braun hit a three pointer with a defender in his grill. Now, the Bison and Braun were coming down the home stretch with the target in sight. Braun would not disappoint. 

Braun would hit another shot with NDSU trailing by one, putting them on top by one with only 1:20 remaining in the game. A missed shot by Fort Wayne allowed NDSU to have a chance to push the lead to three with under a minute to go.

Braun had the ball and there was no stopping him. Down the right side of the lane, Braun jumped stopped, got Steve Forbes of Forth Wayne in the air, absorbed the 300 pounder's contact, threw up a miracle shot that found the bottom of the bucket and was awarded a foul shot.

The play that was called on the and-1, Vert as head coach Saul Phillips called it, was the same play run for Ben Woodside in 2009 when he buried a jumper just inside the three-point line to send the Bison to the NCAA tournament.

While Braun's wasn't a game-winner, it was a game clincher. He would go on to make the free throw and a few seconds later, the Bison were dancing. 

Up until those free throws at the 3:37 mark, Braun had only five points.

He would end with 15. 

A clutch performance in these situations is special. You remember when a player does what Braun did Tuesday night. It is a memory that will live on in Bison history for years to come.

Taylor Braun is the reason I love sports. A guy from Oregon, who had no other Division I offers, puts a school from Fargo in the national tournament with 10 points in four minutes. Awesome.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.