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So Long To The Bison Sports Arena

by Dan Gunderson

It was a dominating win last night for the North Dakota State University men’s basketball team. Over really before the University of South Dakota decided it was time to get off the bus, lace up the sneakers and play a basketball game.

With the 82-54 victory over the Coyotes, the Bison clinched the Summit League regular season title. It was also the second to last game to ever be played at the Bison Sports Arena. The BSA is getting $41 million worth of renovations done over the next couple years. This is forcing the basketball teams, and wrestling program to find other venues for games and matches.

The BSA will change names as well, to the Sanford Health Athletic Complex (SHAC). Many people… okay everybody, could not be happier this is happening. The BSA is known for the outdated make-up, its temperature irregularities and generally blandness.

Compared to what the team’s rival, South Dakota State University, gets to play in, Frost Arena, the Bison are playing in a real shack. That isn’t to say the BSA has had its share of moments, including the moment last night. Although, it appeared fans generally didn’t care based on the fact they were leaving with about seven minutes to go in the game. But, I digress.

Growing up, I did not attend many games at the BSA. I do remember going to watch Denver Tenbroek knock down a ton of shots at some point in high school and Ben Nemmers hit three after three. But, outside of that, I don’t have much of a recollection of the BSA.

The real memories of this place began when I started attending NDSU for college. I was a sophomore when NDSU made the NCAA tournament and one of my favorite moments from the BSA includes that team. I also have a couple more moments I remember fondly about the building. They are as follows.

3. The Big 3 Say Goodbye

On February 17, 2009, the big three of Ben Woodside, Brett Winkelman and Mike Nelson played their final home game of their careers. They dominated SDSU 96-74 in front of a crowd of 5,790.

It wasn’t the game itself that was memorable, but the honoring of the seniors after that game. As the public address announcer listed off the accolades for the players, fans would start clap halfway through. It ended up taking an extra half an hour or so to get through all the lists, acknowledgments and presentations.

It went to show how much of an impact the three seniors had on the Bison program throughout their careers.

2. Michael Tveidt For The Win

In the midst of some pretty unforgettable seasons for the Bison basketball team, one game sticks out at the BSA that I remember for its exciting finish. Taking on the University of Kansas City on January 29, 2011, the Bison went to overtime with the Kangaroos.

The excitement started in overtime, with the Bison up two and under five second to go. Mike Felt fouled Bakari Lewis as he was going up for a three-pointer, allowing UMKC to take three shots and grab a late lead. Lewis made all three and NDSU made a quick inbounds play to the half court line where they immediately called timeout.

This allowed the Bison to set up a last second play from half court with under three seconds to go, rather than try to go the length of the court for a game winning bucket. Eric Carlson was the inbounder for NDSU. Tveidt came up as if he was going to catch the ball beyond the three point line but quickly reversed field, getting a screen from a teammate, allowing Carlson to lob a pass towards the bucket.

It was a perfect pass and Tveidt grabbed and put it in all in one motion. The Bison won the game 89-88. The team ended the season 14-15 overall but that play was memorable to me for the intelligence of both the coaches and the players to realize trying to set something up from half court is much easier than going the length of the court.

1. Bison Defeat South Dakota State…Again

In the same season as the win over UMKC, the Bison would continue to beat up on a much better Jacks team. Nate Wolters was coming into his own as a player and the Jacks were on the verge of having the talent to make it to the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, NDSU was just beginning to turn the corner. Players like Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund were only freshman and Tveidt and Feddy Coleman were on their way out. Earlier that season, NDSU had beaten SDSU down in Brookings and the Jacks were looking for revenge.

They would not be so lucky as NDSU stormed out to a 23-9 lead early in the first half. The Bison held SDSU to four made field goals in the first half on their way to a 84-61 victory over the Jacks. The reason it was so memorable to me is that it was one of the rare moments I got to enjoy the game as a NDSU student.

I covered the team for the NDSU student newspaper, The Spectrum, that season and was usually at the game working. Not on this night. A friend and I sat in the middle of the student section, a hostile student section I might add, and cheered wildly as NDSU crushed the Jacks.

It stood to me as an example of how intimidating the BSA can be if the right type of energy is brought by the fans.

I know this is a very minimal list of favorite moments. I don’t remember many great women basketball games played at the BSA. There are several moments from the 90s that would probably fit above the three I listed.

For me, however, these moments truly define what the BSA meant to me. A place where a good Division I basketball program was born and grew to a point that it needed a new home. The BSA has served its purpose and on Saturday, it will finally host its last game.

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.