2014 Summit Conference Championship: Taylor Braun Leads North Dakota State Back to NCAA Tournament

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Spor

Taylor Braun picked the right time to wake up from a funk that had been plaguing him in the Summit Conference Championship. His surge led the Bison back into the NCAA Tournament.

Taylor Braun lulled us all to sleep. All game long, the Summit League Player of the Year played frustratingly, missing shots and not getting shots, and generally not playing like he deserved the award he won.

But big time players do big time things when they count the most. And when Braun left the huddle after the under-four timeout in the second half, he turned the switch on.

What followed was a masterclass in how to become the Player of the Year. Braun would score the next 10 points for North Dakota State as they Bison came back to down IPFW and head back to the NCAA Tournament with a 60-57 win in the Summit Championship game.

You have to understand how much Braun took over this game after hitting two free throws coming out of that timeout, to tie the game at 51. When the Mastodons' Steve Forbes made a layup at the other end, Braun got the ball back and made a 3-pointer that he celebrated by backpeddling and pumping his fist into the air.

Braun was back, awake, and seemingly enthusiastic for the first time in the game. This was a player who knows that North Dakota State was probably better than Nate Wolters and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits last season. The Bison should have been dancing then, but they just couldn't get over the hump against the Nater.

They weren't going to let the upstart Mastodons take away their chance again.

Perhaps no play represented Braun's total dominance over the final four minutes than the one that sent Twitter into a frenzy of awe.

We may have put it mildly when we said, "How ... did ... that ... go ... in?"

There was a Le Braun, an OMG, and probably a few expletives from IPFW fans that can't be repeated here. But maybe you should see it yourself.

That was with 12 second remaining. That was drawing the foul at the perfect time, and then knocking down the free throw after the timeout. That was winning the game for your team in any ... way ... possible.

Braun would finish with 15 points after his barrage, bested only by his teammate TrayVonn Wright, without whom we wouldn't be talking about Braun.

Wright was having the game of his life until Braun awoke. The senior had 19 points, including a pair of threes, and added two impressive blocks and trio of steals. He was jumping above the rim and accenting every dunk that he could to show he might have deserved better than just a second team All-Conference spot.

He helped to ruin what looked like it would be an historic night for the Mastodons. IPFW will be back in this spot next season, with the bevy of seniors that North Dakota State had this year. They will again be a force in the Summit. This just wasn't their time.

This night, at least the last four minutes of it, belonged to Taylor Braun.

And because of his big plays at the biggest time, the Bison are dancing, and will be a tough opponent for some unsuspecting foe in a little more than a week.

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