A crowd of nearly 5,000 (4,859) fans in Brookings Saturday afternoon expected a tight battle between North Dakota State and South Dakota State - and they got it, right up until the final few seconds with the Bison held off the Jackrabbits for an 85-77 win.

The biggest stat of the first half was lead changes, as the two team seesawed back-and-forth close to a dozen times, each hitting exactly 50% of their shots from the floor.  That was a key for SDSU who knew coming in they'd have to shoot the ball well to keep up with the #1 team in the nation in field goal percentage (52%).

The Bison got balance in the first half, Lawrence Alexander with 9 points, Taylor Braun and Marshall Bjorklund each with 8, and NDSU led by as many as 6.

But Brayden Carlson keyed a 17-9 Jackrabbit run with 14 first half points, giving SDSU a brief lead at 37-35 with 1:45 left.  Jordan Dykstra chipped in 10 in the first 20 minutes.

The one area of the game the Bison dominated in the first half was free throw shooting.  NDSU went to the stripe 12 times in the first half and made all 12, including six straight to end the half up 41-37.

Last year when these two played at Frost Arena, the Bison had an even bigger edge at the half, 37-31, only to see the Jacks reel off 17 straight at one point in the second half, outscoring NDSU 38-16 in the second 20 minutes to win by 16.

NDSU seemed to keenly aware as they jumped out quickly in the second half, TrayVonn Wright hit two shots early and the Bison were off on an 13-0 run, opening up a 52-39 lead.

SDSU tried to answer, and did cut the lead to five a few minutes later when Chad White buried a three to make it 58-52.

But almost as quickly, NDSU recovered with their two best players, Braun with back-to-back baskets, then Bjorklund with a bucket, and just like that it was the Bison back up by 13 with 8:43 left.

The Jacks had one more charge left in them, and when White hit another 3 with 1:25 left it was NDSU up by just 6.

Two defensive stops later SDSU had a chance to cut the lead to 3, but Dykstra missed from 3, and Braun clinched the win from the free throw line.  He finished with 30, Bjorklund was 7-of-12 for 19 points, Alexander had 15.

NDSU shot just under 56% for the game, 62% in the second half.  SDSU made 50% of their shots, including 10 3-pointers.

Carlson led the Jacks with 22, Dykstra with 17, White with 16.

The Bison won the battle of the boards 34-24, and outscored South Dakota State at the free throw line 23-11.

SDSU falls to 1-9 when trailing at the half this season.

The Jackrabbits (10-10/2-3) play at Denver next Thursday and at South Dakota next Saturday.