Column: NDSU proves it has its own Big Ben (Woodside)

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jeff Budlong, Sports Editor

Chances are if you were surfing the Internet late Saturday or early Sunday and came across ESPN.com or SI.com you saw a picture of Albert Lea’s own Ben Woodside and North Dakota State.

That is what happens when when a small Division I school goes into the house of Big Ten power Wisconsin and deals them a 62-55 defeat.

Led by Woodside’s 24 points the Bison sent shockwaves through the college basketball landscape big enough to sweep

three undefeated national powers losing for the first time this season to page two of most newspapers.

The victory put the Bison in an elite group of teams including Temple, Wake Forest and Illinois as the only squads to down the Badgers at home in the last five years.

&8220;When we recruited Ben I knew he was a talented kid,&8221; said Bison head coach Tom Miles of his redshirt freshman who is leading the team in scoring at 18 points per game.

&8220;He is a great competitor, hard worker, a leader and a talented basketball player.&8221;

For Woodside, it was an experience he won’t soon forget.

&8220;It was unbelievable,&8221; the he said, &8220;It was one of the best basketball feelings I have ever had playing in front of 17,000 fans.

&8220;It was one of the best basketball experiences I have ever had.

You can’t really compare it to anything in high school, but the closest thing would be the Austin game multiplied by 12.&8221;

The reality of the situation didn’t fully sink in for Woodside until he woke up Sunday morning.

The celebrating began shortly after the final buzzer and hasn’t slowed down yet for the NDSU basketball team with national media requests still pouring into the schools athletic office.

&8220;We have been doing media requests since the game ended and we are booked through noon (Tuesday),&8221; said NDSU head coach Tom Miles.

Woodside said the bus ride back to NDSU was not nearly as long as it felt going to the game.

&8220;It was the most fun eight hours I have ever spent on a bus, we were excited all the way back to Fargo,&8221; he said.

&8220;I don’t think anyone mellowed out until we got to Minneapolis and put some movies on.&8221;

It has been a successful first season for Woodside who seems to have adjusted to the Division I level quite well.

He attributes much of his success to the year he spent watching games and working in the weight room during his redshirt year.

&8220;(Redshirting) was a great experience and something I needed to do,&8221; he said.

&8220;I was able to gain weight and get a feel for what it is like both academically and athletically at this level.&8221;

Woodside believes that having that extra year is one of the key reasons that both he and his teammates were able to put forth the kind of performance they did Saturday.

For a player who was capable of dominating at the high school level while suiting up for the Tigers, leaving with school records in points, assists and steals, it is surprising to hear that the thing he has worked on most is his shooting.

&8220;I shoot a lot in practice, constantly working on my jump shot.

It is something that I still need to improve.

&8220;When I first came here the games were a lot more intense, 10 times faster and there was a lot more athleticism on the court than I had ever seen.

Now it just feels like we are playing another game of basketball.&8221;

The win has created quite a buzz on campus, but both Woodside and his coach know that they want bigger things than just one signature win.

&8220;We are trying to build something here, and this is just the first step in doing that,&8221; said Woodside.

&8220;Our challenge now is to build off this momentum and not fall in love with the Wisconsin game,&8221; said Miles.

&8220;Oddly enough, the things we didn’t do against (Utah Valley State) were the exact things we did well against Wisconsin to win.&8221;

The calender may say that it is just January, but wins like that make me think of a special basketball time in March.