Beavers improve to 2-0 in conference play with 76-66 win over SW Minnesota State
Saturday, December 2, 2006
MARSHALL, Minn. (R/A Facility) -- Before the season even began Bemidji State University head coach Mike Curfman knew the 2006-07 non-conference schedule would be a tough one, but all along he wanted to supply his team with challenges to prepare them for the rigors of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play. With one weekend in the books, his plan has begun to come to fruition as the team opened league competition with consecutive victories. Saturday the Beavers recorded a 76-66 win versus Southwest Minnesota State University Saturday in Marshall, Minn.

"I told our team at the beginning of the season that there was a a good chance we could be 0-4 when we enter league play," said Curfman. "But in the long run I thought playing talented teams to open the season would help us get ready for conference play."

The Beavers responded to the challenge. After taking lessons learned from back-to-back losses to open the season, BSU came 10 seconds away from evening its record at 2-2 at the American Family Insurance Classic in Duluth. Now this weekend his team packed its bags for an NSIC road trip and posted a pair of wins as it ascended to the top of the league standings and opened the conference season with consecutive wins for the first time since it posted three straight as the 1995-96 season got underway.

Contrary to BSU's previous two wins, the Beavers rode sharp shooting effort to a halftime lead. The Beavers hit 17-of-29 attempts (.586) in the first 20 minutes, including a 5-for-7 (.714) performance from beyond the three-point arc. BSU held onto its lead through every moment of the second half, using the 10-point win to even its overall record at 3-3.

For the second outing on this road trip, junior point guard Amy Lawson (Spencer, Iowa) led the Beavers to victory. Saturday she netted a team-high 19 points while collecting seven assist, grabbing five rebounds and continuing to add to her league-leading steal total by snatching a game-best four. Stephanie Peterson (Junior, C, Bismarck, N.D.) combine 18 points and 10 rebounds marking her fourth consecutive double-double of the season.

Bridget Smith (So., G, Burnsville, Minn.) took advantage of her fourth career start by netting 15 points and igniting the BSU offense during the first half as she drained each of her three, three-point attempts and finished the contest going 4-for-7 from downtown--a performance that matches her career-best outing.

Southwest Minnesota State got a game-high 23 points off the bench from Sara Leidall while Abby Oakland and Liz Ginder each contributed 10 points. Betsy Tasca led the team on the glass with eight rebounds, but the Mustangs would come up on the short end of the battle on the boards as Peterson and company pulled down 37 to SMSU's 33.

Grinder got SMSU on the board first hitting a jumper just 21 second in, but on the next possession, Heidi Matzke (So., G, Red Lake Falls, Minn.) found Smith for an open triple to switch the score to 3-2 in favor of the Beavers. The three-pointer would spark a seven-point run by BSU who extended its lead to five-points (7-2) on a Peterson lay-up.

The Mustangs would respond by scoring the next six points to regain the lead, 8-7, with 16:52 on the clock.

During the next seven minutes, the teams swapped the lead three times and the score would be tied on three occasions, but when Melissa Roberts (So., F, Staples, Minn.) took a pass from Lawson and drained a jumper with 9:35 to go in the first half, it would give BSU a 23-21 lead--a lead BSU would not relinquish.

The Beavers scored eight of the next 10 points to stretch their lead to six (29-23), and despite the Mustangs twice cutting the BSU advantage to a basket, Bemidji State would end the half on a 12-5 run, capped by a Colleen Boell (So., G, Burnsville, Minn.) lay-up, to head into the locker rooms up nine, 43-34.

Southwest Minnesota State came out of the break to net eight of the first 10 points and reel the Beavers to within three points, 45-42. The hosts would cut the lead to two points, 53-51, with just over 12 minutes on the clock, but BSU would weather the storm and hold off the charging Mustangs. By the midway point of the half, BSU had regained a nine-point edge (60-51) and would hold the lead into the final two minutes, during which, the Beavers were 5-of-6 from the free-throw line to preserve the lead.

After coming out the the gates on fire, BSU's hot hands cooled off during the final 20 minutes posting a 9-of-30 (.300) shooting effort. For the game, the Beavers were 26-for-59 from the field (.441) and 6-of-15 from downtown (.400) while SMSU hit 28-of-61 (.459) and was just 4-for-18 from outside the three-point line. The big difference in the game was that Bemidji State got to the free-throw line 23 times and made 18 (.783) while the Mustangs made good on 6-of-9 .(667) form the charity stripe.

The victory tightens the all-time series between the Beavers and Mustangs to 27-33 as BSU has won two of the last three versus SMSU.

The Beavers (3-3;2-0 NSIC) return to the comfort of the BSU Gymnasium next weekend where the team will host Concordia University-St. Paul (1-4; 1-0 NSIC) for its 2006-07 home opener Friday. The following evening BSU will entertain Minnesota State University Moorhead (4-3; 0-1 NSIC) in a rematch of last winter's 59-58 NSIC Tournament quarterfinal match-up. Both games are set for 6 p.m. starts.