Jerian Grant hit a pair of free throws to get the Irish within one point, 67-66, after Bjorklund fouled out with 42.1 seconds left, but Taylor Braun knocked down a pair from the line, then stole the ball as the Irish pressed for a shot. He fed the ball ahead to Kory Brown, who slammed it in with 16 seconds left to seal the victory. Braun finished with 13 points.
Connaughton scored a pair of breakaway baskets five minutes into the second half to give the Irish their first lead since 7:12 of the first half. The second, a one-handed slam after Garrick Sherman tipped the ball away from Bjorklund on the other end, brought the Notre Dame crowd to life for the first time since the opening tip and capped a 9-2 run.
After the Bison scored six straight get their lead back to three, Connaughton knocked down a 3-pointer to tie it with 9:20 to go, but the Irish couldn't keep their momentum going.
Bjorklund responded with consecutive buckets down low as the Irish continued to fire, and miss, from the arc. Their next four shots from the field after Connaughton's 3 were misses from deep, but Atkins managed a traditional three-point play on a tough drive to the hoop with 6:21 to go to get Notre Dame back within one.
But North Dakota State kept feeding Bjorklund in the paint, and he continued to deliver, knocking down two more jump hooks in the lane to put the Bison back up by five points.
Notre Dame countered by switching to a zone, and Tom Knight corralled a steal and blocked a Bjorklund shot on consecutive possessions.
Another Connaughton 3-pointer at 2:11 cut the Bison lead back to two.
The Bison took a 39-37 lead into halftime after shooting 58 percent (14-for-24), including 71 percent (5-of-7) from 3-point range. Bjorklund, Alexander and Braun each had 10 points in the first half, while Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 11.
Neither team led by more than six points all game.