"This is unbelievable right now," said point guard Ben Woodside, minutes after he posted a game-high 24 points. "It's probably one of the greatest basketball feelings I've ever had. It was great just getting an opportunity playing at the Kohl Center here. It was a great environment and I think we went out there and we just had a great time."
Woodside is one of four redshirt freshman starters for NDSU, a transitional Division I program.
"Around campus we walked around in August like we were going to a wake," Bison coach Tim Miles said. "Every student was giving us condolences on going to Division I and hopefully we made them proud today."
For the University of Wisconsin men's basketball team, Saturday's 62-55 upset loss—on the Kohl Center floor where they had lost just three games in five seasons—elicited far different emotions.
Point guard Kammron Taylor held back tears in the post game press conference. Asked about the Badgers' 16-for-72 (22 percent) shooting performance, Taylor spoke quietly. "I don't know how to describe it," he said solemnly. He paused before adding, "Man, it was just a terrible shooting day."
Saturday was a fairly indescribable day for a team that had been playing very well. A week ago the Badgers were 14-2 overall and alone atop the Big Ten standings with a 4-0 conference mark. They now stand 14-4, having lost two straight games without reserves forward Marcus Landry (academically ineligible) and center Greg Stiemsma (medical leave of absence) in the rotation.
If there is any solace in Saturday's surprising loss—a ranked opponent falling to a transitional Division I program—for the Badgers, it is that it came in a non-conference setting.
"Well, sitting in the locker room you still see we're on top of the Big Ten," forward Joe Krabbenhoft said. "But we don't live in the past. We live in the present. And Coach (Bo Ryan) and the guys keep saying that. We can't be satisfied with 4-1 in the Big Ten. So what? We just got stomped by North Dakota State. Not to take anything away at all. Like (Alando Tucker) said, they are a great team. Great coach. And we got to get ready for the next team and put this behind us."
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan knows what it is like to coach at a mid-major like North Dakota State—to be David trying to slay Goliath—from his stops at UW-Milwaukee and Division III UW-Platteville.
"I would say it's going to help (the Bison) tremendously," Ryan said. "But the most important thing for us to understand is what do we do next? What are we going to do?"
Next on the docket for Wisconsin is Penn State, which will visit the Kohl Center Wednesday evening. The Nittany Lions are far from a Big Ten power, but they have been a much more formidable opponent than most people expected. The Badgers can ill afford to let Saturday's loss linger.
"It doesn't change anything at all that we do Monday," Ryan said of the loss to NDSU. "We got Penn State. We break the films down. We got our clips. We got our scouting report. All right, let's go get them."
After Saturday's game, the Badgers and Bison acknowledged the importance of NDSU assistant coach Saul Phillips. Having spent three years at UW as director of basketball operations under Ryan, Phillips had a unique understanding of the Badgers' personnel and systems. That likely contributed to UW's woes. The Bison, for instance, made a point of running extra bodies at Tucker in the post and held him to a 2-for-18 shooting day.
However, Taylor and Tucker said it was not any particular defensive scheme that befuddled Wisconsin Saturday as much as it was a product of each teams' execution.
"Teams, they know what we're going to try and do," Taylor said. "They know that we're going to try to work the ball inside. But that doesn't mean anything. We won 14 games already with teams knowing what we're trying to do. But we just didn't execute."
"We can't have shooting nights like that," Tucker said. "Guys have to step up with confidence and knock down open shots. Because we weren't forced to do anything that we don't normally do. We just weren't hitting shots."