Beavers knock off No. 16 Northern State, 58-55
BEMIDJI, Minn. – [box score] Post-season play my be two weeks away, but when the Bemidji State University men's basketball team met No. 16 Northern State University Friday in the BSU Gymnasium, there was a definite feeling of tournament pressure in the air. Through hard work on the defensive end of the court and clutch shooting, the Beavers pulled off a 58-55 win over the visiting Wolves.
The billing pitted the No. 3 and 10 teams in the North Central Region in a battle for second place in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings. A win would pull BSU into a tie with the Wolves at 8-3 in league play and give BSU an edge in the tie-breaking process due to NSU dropping two games to Winona State while the Beavers handed the 10-1 Warriors their only loss in conference play.
The match-up would live up top its billing as the lead changed hands nine times and the score was tied on nine occasions. Down three with less than a minute to play, NSU had three chances to tie the game, but failed to connect on any of them and dropped its fourth game of the season and second straight.
The Beavers were led by senior guard Duane Fields (Los Angeles, Calif.) who netted a game-high 14 points. Derik Hollyfield (Sr., G, Aurora, Ill.) added 13 while nabbing a game-best five steals. Spencer Carter (Sr., F, Chicago, Ill.) and Manuel Guzman (Sr., C, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) each totaled six rebounds to lead all players.
The pair of Craig Nelson and Aaron Busack each recorded 11 points to pace the Wolves offensive attack while Adam Grant added 10 points. The Beavers were able to silence 2005-06 NSIC Preseason Player of the year and All-American candidate Matt Hammer, holding the senior to just six points, on 2-of-9 from the floor, while forcing him into 10 turnovers. However, he did led the Wolves with five rebounds and six assists.
Northern State got on the board first and held a slim lead through the majority off the first 10 minutes of play. At the midway point of the half, Stacy Pearson-Taylor (Sr., F, Miami, Fla.) netted a layup to put BSU up 11-10 as the teams combined to shoot 7-for-23 (.304) while turning the ball over eight times setting the tone for the physical, defensive battle.
With 7:14 to go before the halftime horn, Pearson-Taylor hit a pair of free-throws that ignited BSU on a 9-0 run as BSU netted 13 of the final 18 points of the half and go up by as many as 11 (28-17) before Nelson hit a three to cut the Beavers' halftime lead to 28-20.
The Wolves quickly reeled BSU to within five points (30-25) as the second half got underway and after the Beavers reestablished their lead to 38-29, NSU rattled off the next 11 points consecutively and scored 15 of the next 17 to take its largest lead of the game at 44-40 with 9:21 to play.
The Beavers kept the Wolves within striking distance several times tying the game and watching the lead switch hands five times in the game's final five minutes, but it was a three-pointer by Alvin Muse (Sr., G, South Holland, Ill.) with 2:16 on the clock that put BSU up for good (56-55).
The Wolves had several opportunities in the final minute of play to win or tie the game but three turnovers and a trio of missed three-point attempts spelled doom for NSU as Fields iced the game with a pair of free-throws win 14 ticks on the clock.
BSU out shot the Wolves 39.6 (21-53) to 37.7 (20-53) percent in the game despite struggling from beyond the three-point arc hitting just 3-of-17 attempts (.176).
NSU grabbed a 34-30 edge on the glass, but BSU's defensive pressure forced NSU into 22 turnovers which the beavers turned into 16 points.
The win over No. 16 NSU marks the Beavers' fourth win over nationally-ranked teams in six tries this season.
The win improves BSU to 13-10 overall and 8-3 in NSIC play while NSU falls to 20-4 and 8-3 in the league.
BSU will attempt to extend its winning streak to three tomorrow when they welcome Minnesota State-Moorhead (12-9; 5-4 NSIC) to the BSU Gymnasium for an NSIC clash. The teams are set to hit the floor at 8 p.m.