Bemidji State topples Minn.-Crookston, 81-68, in NSIC Tournament
Wednesday, March 2, 2005
BEMIDJI, Minn. (BSU Gymnasium) - Playing without two regular starters, the Bemidji State men’s basketball team used a strong defensive effort and rode a 19-point effort from senior forward Amir Major (Chicago, Ill.) to an 81-68 victory over the Minnesota Crookston Golden Eagles in the first round of the 2005 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament.

Bemidji State never trailed in the game. The Golden Eagles tied the score at 2-2 after a Jon Smith jumper in the paint 34 seconds into the game, but would get no closer than two points the rest of the way.

The Golden Eagles, who hit just two field goals in the first 7:43 of the contest, used a reverse layup from Adam Dombrovski at the 11:28 mark of the half to spark an 8-4 run and cut BSU’s lead to four. A 12-foot jumper from Ahmid Palmer at 6:50 capped the run and pulled the score to 23-19, UMC’s smallest deficit since trailing 10-7 at the 15:51 mark.

But Bemidji State would answer immediately. Major drove the paint for a layup, and his bucket would set off an 11-4 run for the Beavers which would help the home team build an 11-point cushion, its biggest of the half.

James Roberson (Sr., Chicago, Ill.) scored five of BSU’s 11 points during the run, hitting a three-pointer on a breakaway from just outside the arc and hitting a short jumper to put BSU ahead 30-21 at the 4:34 mark.

Crookston attempted to rally, pulling back within eight when Matt Hoie hit a three-pointer from the left side of the arc after a kickout pass with 3:16 to play, but BSU answered with an Alvin Muse (Jr., South Holland, Ill.) trey with 59 seconds left in the half and took a 37-28 advantage into the locker room.

BSU was able to take advantage of poor field-goal shooting by the Golden Eagles to take its early leads. The visitors opened the game 4-for-14 from the field and during one stretch went nearly five minutes without a field goal until a Garry Thompson jumper at 12:17 made the score 17-11 in favor of the Beavers.

“This was one of our better defensive efforts,” BSU head coach Patrick Smith said. “We didn’t give them any good looks. We’ve played these guys three times now, and this is the fewest points they’ve scored against us. We strung together some good possessions defensively and just let the offense develop.”

The Golden Eagles came out strong in the second half, riding a resilient performance from Smith. The Golden Eagle junior, who scored just two points on 1-of-3 shooting in the first half, scored UMC’s first eight points of the second half on a conventional three-point play, a three pointer and a layup off an offensive rebound to pull the Golden Eagles within seven, 43-36, at the 17:14 mark.

Smith’s follow layup helped set off a 10-4 run over a span of 2:30, and a Ahmid Palmer three-pointer from several feet behind the arc at 14:27 pulled the Golden Eagles within three, 47-44.

“We had some guys in foul trouble and came out flat,” Smith said. “But we stayed patient and waited for things to happen, and then [Derrick] Beechum came in, got a steal off the press and got it turned around. They hit some big shots to get back into the game, but we always had the answer.”

The teams traded baskets over the next several minutes, with Smith hitting a layup under the basket for the Golden Eagles to draw the visitors within four, 61-57, with 7:17 to play.

But after a layup by Rodney Williams (Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.) and a conventional three-point play from Major after drawing a foul on Smith put the Beavers back up by nine, 66-57, and essentially iced the game.

BSU finished with four players in double figures, led by Major’s 19 points which tied for game-high honors. Roberson and Muse finished with 16 points each, and Derrick Beechum (Jr., Davenport, Iowa) chipped in 13. Roberson and Muse each hit two three-point field goals to lead the team, and Beechum went 9-for-14 from the free-throw line, including 5-for-9 in the game’s final 1:01 as the Eagles were fouling to try and get back into the game.

Ian Atkins (Sr., Detroit, Mich.) led the Beavers with eight rebounds.

For the Golden Eagles, Smith used a 17-point second half to tie Major for game-high scoring honors with 19 points. Matt Hoie was the only other Golden Eagle in double figures with 15 points and six assists. Justin Henry had a game-high 10 rebounds, but also had seven turnovers.

The Beavers played tonight without the services of Spencer Carter (Jr., Chicago, Ill.), who sat out a one-game suspension, and Duane Fields (Jr., Los Angeles, Calif.), who was away tending to personal business. Fields is the team’s leading scorer at 13.4 points per game and Carter averaged 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds.

“We talked to our guys in pre-game about playing with two of our major players out tonight,” Smith said. “We still had four players in double-figures and had balance on offense. Our kids didn’t want to let the adversity end their year.”

With tonight’s victory, Bemidji State improves to 17-11 and will advance to the semifinals of the NSIC Tournament for the fourth consecutive season. BSU is now 4-0 in first-round NSIC playoff games in Bemidji and sees its all-time record in the NSIC Tournament improve to 4-5. Crookston sees its season come to an end at 8-21 overall and loses its first-ever NSIC Tournament contest.

The Beavers will continue their 2004-05 season at Winona State, the NSIC Tournament’s No. 1 seed. The Warriors battled Minnesota State-Moorhead in their quarterfinal game tonight before prevailing 98-86 in double overtime. As the highest remaining seed in the tournament, Winona State will host the semifinals and championship.

Bemidji State will tackle Northern State in the quarterfinals, while Winona State will match up with Concordia-St. Paul. Bemidji State and Northern State split their two-game regular-season series, with each team winning on the other’s home court. BSU will be looking for its first-ever NSIC Tournament semifinal victory.

2005 NSIC Tournament Quarterfinals
Bemidji State 81, Minn.-Crookston 68
Concordia-St. Paul 93, Wayne State 84
Winona State 98, MSU-Moorhead 86 (2OT)
Northern State 94, Southwest Minnesota State 83