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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

Streams of unconsciousness from the world of sports:

Another one for NDSU: The Bison made it exciting at the end, but North Dakota State University wrapped up its seventh Football Championship Subdivision national title Saturday with a 38-24 win over Eastern Washington.

NDSU did make its fans sweat out the final two minutes.

Leading by 14 with about 10 minutes remaining, the Bison got the ball back inside their own five. The next eight minutes saw NDSU playing throwback football, grinding the ball down the field, converting third down after third down.

With just over two minutes remaining, the Bison had a chip-shot field goal that would have set off celebrations from Fargo to Bismark to, well, I don’t know any other towns in North Dakota, but the kick missed.

Eastern Washington scored a quick touchdown, and suddenly, the Eagles were an onside kick and a big play from sending the game into overtime. However, the Bison recovered, scoring again and strengthened the case that the Missouri Valley Football Conference is the toughest in the FCS.

Nicole Martin: It was an OK weekend for the Saluki women’s basketball team, but it was an outstanding weekend for Nicole Martin.

Martin poured in 23 points and grabbed a dozen rebounds in Friday’s 67-47 win over Evansville. On Sunday, Martin scored 26 and had six rebounds. Over two games she made 21-of-30 field goal attempts and grabbed 18 boards. That’s beyond solid.

A junior center, Martin has been a fixture in the Saluki lineup for two years. But, she appears to be stepping up her game. In addition, to scoring on post moves, Martin showed she could put the ball on the floor and go to the hoop against the two MVC Indiana teams.

She blew by her defender for a nice reverse layup against Evansville. Sunday, she caught the ball near the free throw line and left a Sycamore rooted to the free throw line for a pretty layup.

Bryce Harper: He’s still not signed? How can that be? The man is the greatest player ever to wear cleats.

OK, I don’t mean to pick on Harper. The sarcasm is really aimed at fans who think the addition of a .240 hitter will transform their team into the World Series champions.

Harper is an excellent player. But, to my knowledge, he has never sprayed champagne on a teammate in November … at least not in a major league clubhouse. I won’t speak for activities away from the ballpark.

Win at UNI: The Panthers probably won’t win the Missouri Valley Conference. They probably won’t play in the NCAA tournament.

However, a win in Cedar Falls is a rarity. Everyone involved with the basketball program should have bought a lottery ticket after the Salukis escaped with a win Saturday night.

I only covered one SIU game in Cedar Falls. In 2004 the Salukis went to the Northern Iowa sporting a perfect 17-0 Missouri Valley Conference record. Matt Painter’s club had won 19 of its last 20 games. Yet, they got schooled 68-52 by the Panthers.

They were never in the game.

There is never a bad win at UNI.

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LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at les.winkeler@thesouthern.com, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.

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