Bemidji State second half rally falls short at No. 6 Northern State
Saturday, January 14, 2006
ABERDEEN, S.D. – [box score] The Northern State University men's basketball team used a 19-5 run during the opening 6:44 of the second half to stretch a 39-37 halftime lead to a 16-point advantage (58-42). Despite climbing back to within six points with less than two minutes to play, Bemidji State University could not get over the hump as Beavers fell to No. 6 NSU 85-75 Saturday night in front of over 6,000 at the Barnett Center in Aberdeen, S.D.

The first half was as evenly played as possible. Seven times the score was tied while the lead changed hands on eight occasions.

After scoring first, NSU would build a four-point lead twice during the opening 10 minutes, but BSU would whittle away that lead as Will Watson (Sr., G, Baton Rouge, La.) and Derik Hollyfield (Sr., G, Aurora, Ill) each hit threes and Xavier Powell (Jr., F, Miami, Fla.) added a jumper. Alvin Muse (Sr., G, South Holland, Ill.) hit a three with 5:29 remaining in the half to give BSU its first lead of the contest (30-29).

After trading baskets on back-to-back possessions, BSU would open a four-point (37-33) lead, its largest of the game, when Duane Fields (Sr., G, Los Angeles, Calif.) hit from beyond the arc at the 2:48 mark. But the Wolves would score the final six points of the half to go into the locker rooms with a 39-37 lead at halftime.

Northern State came out of the break in a flurry.

NSU hit seven of its first 10 shots of the half, including four three-pointers, to go up by 16 with 14:16 to play in regulation. Craig Nelson was a spark for the NSU run going 3-of-3 in the opening minutes of the half netting nine of his 17 points in just 2:06.

Though the Beavers found themselves down 17 early in the second half, they didn't give up. Key three-point shooting by Fields, Hollyfield and Muse allowed BSU to reel the Wolves to six on three different occasions and keep the NSU advantage at less than 10 for the majority of the final 10 minutes of play, but the Beavers ran out of time and personnel to complete the comeback.

"There is a reason they [Northern State] are sixth in the country and 14-1. They are a really good basketball team," commented BSU head coach Patrick Smith after the game. "They returned most of their major players from a team that beat us in the conference semifinals a year ago and I think that experience really shown through tonight."

"But we still had our chances late," added Smith. "I thought we might be able to make a comeback and take the lead, but we just could never get a key stop."

Another key to the NSU win was its rebounding edge. The Wolves grabbed a 38-18 advantage on the glass as the Beavers' recorded their worst rebounding effort of the season.

"I am extremely disappointed in our rebounding effort," said Smith. "In the end I think it was the difference in the game. It isn't only the times they got possessions back and second chance baskets that hurt us, it also prevented us from running and that is what we do best, push the ball down the court."

It should come as no surprise that the Wolves also out shot BSU at the free throw line. BSU has only out shoot its opponent at the line one time this season and that was last weekend in its win over No. 14 Winona State. Free-throw differential has been the achilles' heal for BSU all season and tonight the 24-5 advantage at the line proved big for NSU as the team shot over 83 percent from the stripe (20-24).

Hollyfield led four BSU players in double figures scoring 20 draining 5-of-6 from three-point land. Muse and Manuel Guzman (Sr., C, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) added 13 and 11 respectively while Stacy Pearson-Taylor (Sr., F, Miami, Fla.) scored eight of his 10 points early in the first half.

Spencer Carter (Sr., F, Chicago, Ill.) and Hollyfield each pulled down five boards to pace the Beavers on the glass, while ironically each fouled out as time ran out on the BSU comeback.

Northern State was led by the 21-point, six-rebound, six-assist effort form 2005-06 NSIC Preseason Player of the Year Matt Hammer. The senior was a perfect 7-of-7 from the line with hitting on 7-of-14 from the floor. Aaron Busack added 16 points while pulling down a game-high seven rebounds.

Bemidji State falls to 7-9 on the year while it moves 2-2 in conference play. The Wolves improve to 14-1 on the year and remain the only undefeated team in the NSIC with a 4-0 record.

BSU is now 3-2 this season when playing against a nationally ranked opponent as its struggles to win on the road continue dropping its seventh game in nine tries away form the BSU Gymnasium.

The Beavers will return home next weekend (Jan. 20-21) for their NSIC home opener versus Southwest Minnesota State University Friday and will host Wayne State College Saturday. Both games are set for an 8 p.m. tip-off.