BEMIDJI, Minn. (BSU Gymnasium) - Despite holding a 30-28 halftime lead, the Bemidji State University women’s basketball team was defeated, 71-56, by Southwest Minnesota State University Saturday night at the BSU Gymnasium in Bemidji, Minn. The Mustangs forced 23 Bemidji State turnovers, 18 in the first half to gain the victory.
Bemidji State held the lead for the majority of the first 20-minutes of play as the Beavers jumped out to an early 6-2 lead behind a pair of three-point buckets by Sydney Epema (Fr., G, Crookston, Minn.). The Mustangs battled back to tied the game at 8-8 on a jumper by Abby Kenealy, but the Beavers would go on a five point run capped off by a couple Heidi Matzke (Sr., G, Red Lake Falls, Minn.) free-throws to take a 13-8 lead with 11:09 left in the half.
SMSU eventually took its first lead of the game at the 6:21 mark of the half off a Abby Oakland three (18-15), but it did not last long as BSU went on a 11-1 run over the next 3:21 pushing its lead to seven-points (28-21) the largest of the game. BSU went cold in the final three minutes of play allowing the Mustangs to close the gap to two (30-28) by the halftime buzzer.
BSU held the Mustangs to 35.3 percent (12-34) from the field and 17.4 percent (2-17) from behind the arc in the first half but 18 first half turnovers allowed SMSU to stay in the game.
SMSU came out of the break going on a 18-6 run in the first six minutes to take a ten point lead (46-36). BSU battled back closing the Mustangs lead to five with 6:46 left (55-50) but the Mustangs used solid free-throw shooting down the stretch connecting on 11-of-12 from the stripe in the final two minutes to earn their third conference victory of the season, 71-56.
Colleen McKay (So., F, Barnum, Minn.) led all scorers with 15 points and fell just two points shy of her season best of 17 set against St. Cloud State University (1/10/09). Rounding out the Beavers top-two scorers was Epema who netted her 12th double-digit point game of the season and seventh in a row with 13. Matzke added seven points in just her second game back from an injury that sidelined her for most of January. Samantha Baldwin (Fr., G, St. Thomas, N.D.) grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds, her second double-digit rebound game of the season.
SMSU was led by a quartet of players in double-digit points. Sara Leidall led the charge with 14 points while Tori Fink, Abby Oakland, and Abby Kenealy all chipped in 11. Oakland and Fink each dished out seven assists while Oakland grabbed a team-high seven rebounds.
With the loss the Beavers fall to 29-35 all-time versus SMSU and are on a season-long 16 game losing streak, longest in school history. It is also just the second time in school history that BSU has opened conference play, 0-13.
BSU falls to 2-18 on the season, just the second time a Beaver squad has opened up a season 2-18. The last time BSU has opened up a season 2-18 was during the 1981-82 season. The team will be back in action next weekend when they travel to St. Paul, Minn. and St. Cloud, Minn. BSU will battle Concordia University, St. Paul on Friday, Feb. 6 and will wrap up the weekend with a visit to St. Cloud State University on Saturday, Feb. 7. Both games are scheduled to start at 6 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).