BEMIDJI, Minn. - Fifty-nine combined fouls dictated the pace of the game between the Bemidji State University men’s basketball team and visiting Northern State University. In the end, NSU won the battle of the free throw line, downing BSU 84-82 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game at the BSU Gymnasium. The loss makes six in a row for a struggling Beaver squad.
The Beavers (7-12, 4-11 NSIC) were whistled for 33 personal fouls, tying a program record and establishing a new league-high in 2010-11. Northern State (9-10, 5-10 NSIC) shot 49 free throws, making 39 of them (79.6%) to set the league standard for free throws attempted and made this season. NSU’s 39 made free throws tied a NSIC record set by Southwest Minnesota State University (then Southwest State) in 1971 against Winona State University. The teams combined for 80 attempts from the charity stripe as BSU went 26-of-31 (83.9%) from the line. In the two games between the Wolves and Beavers this season, 117 fouls were called and 168 free throws were attempted.
On paper it looked as if Bemidji State won the game, breaking out of a two-game shooting slump going 26-for-48 (54.2%) from the field, while holding NSU to 39.2 percent from the field. They were outrebounded by one board, but have five blocks and seven steals to the Wovles’ zero blocks and three steals. BSU had 38 points in the paint to Northern State’s 20. Again the game was decided by one or two possessions and BSU failed to execute when it mattered, falling to 1-6 in games decided by five points or less.
“Very disappointing game for us,” said head coach Matt Bowen. “Unfortunately we had a lot of the same mistakes that have been haunting us the last three or four games. Our inability to keep anybody out of dribble penetration leads to fouls, leads us having to over rotate and even if they miss the shots leads to offensive rebounds. It’s been something we’ve known for a while, it just got exposed to a greater degree tonight and obviously with the quick whistle it made it to where it was almost impossible to get into any sort of game flow for either team and they were fortunate to shoot more free throws than us.”
For the majority of the conference season the Beavers have been able to jump out to a good start. Saturday was no different as BSU owned an 18-9 lead eight minutes into the game. The problem with the Beavers this season has been able to maintain focus and intensity through the middle of the half. Despite a short lapse, BSU was able to extend its lead to 12 at 34-22 with six remaining in the half on a sophomore Burke Lendl (G/F, St. Michael, Minn.) old fashioned 3-point play.
Physical play all game by both teams led to double technicals on BSU’s Lendl and NSU’s Casey Baker. An original foul was called on Lendl and Baker went to the line for two shots. He converted both and Northern State cut the deficit to six at 36-30 with 3:30 remaining.
The Wolves kept the pressure on and the halftime score read 41-36 in favor of BSU.Twenty-six fouls were called on the two teams in the first half, as NSU shot 21 free throws (16-of-21) and BSU attempted 13 (11-for-13). Junior James Ellisor’s (F, Glendale, Ariz.) 12 points led the Beavers in the first half. BSU countered its deficit from the line by shooting 14-of-22 (63.6%) from the field.
The battle continued into the second half as the two teams traded baskets and fouls. BSU maintained a small lead until, with 10:30 left in the half, NSU cut the deficit to one at 58-57. The Wolves then took their first lead of the game with 7:30 to go on a lay-up underneath that made the score 63-62.
NSU kept the lead through the next four minutes, stretching it to six at 73-67 after two Walters missed free throws and a 3-poiner from the hot hand of Tom Parks, who scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. The Beavers chipped away at the disadvantage and a sophomore Lance Rongstad (G, Eleva, Minn.) 3-point play made it a one point game at 75-74 with 1:21 showing on the clock. Parks responded with a jumper and the lead was three.
BSU had an opportunity to knot the game, but a junior Bryce Tesdahl (G, Crosby, Minn.) 3-point came up short and two NSU free throws put the game to five. With 35 seconds remaining Rongstad got an inside pass from Tesdahl and had a clear lane to the basket. The Beavers opted to press and get a stop instead of fouling, being down three with just a few tenths of a second difference between the game and shot clocks.
BSU forced a turnover and all of a sudden had the ball with a chance to tie. Sophomore Mason Walters (F, Milton, Wis.) got open atop the key and line-up a 3-point attempt, but it was off and NSU pulled down the rebound. The Beavers were able to stay within a possesion by fouling and Rongstad knocking down clutch 3-pointers, but it wouldn’t be enough and the Wolves were able to walk out of Bemidji with a ‘W.’
Rongstad finished with a game-high 22 points, going 7-of-9 from the field, 2-for-3 from beyond the arc and 6-fo-6 from the free throw line. Ellisor could only muster two points in second half and finished with a team-high eight rebounds. Tesdahl had 13 points and five assists, going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe. Senior Patrick Cassidy (F, St. Paul, Minn.) was also in double-digits with 11 points and five rebounds, with a career-high three blocks.
The Beavers stay at home next weekend as they host their travel partner, University of Minnesota Duluth, Feb. 5 at 4 p.m.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).