ABERDEEN, S.D. - Behind junior James Ellisor’s (F, Glendale, Ariz.) 27 points and junior Bryce Tesdahl’s (G, Crosby, Minn.) career-tying 11 assists, the Bemidji State University men’s basketball team scratched and clawed for a 92-86 victory at Northern State University. The Beavers move to 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, winning their conference road opener.
“It was an odd game with a lot of fouls and neither team could find a rhythm, but I was glad to be on the winning end,” said head coach Matt Bowen. “We switched up the starting line-up and it allowed us to get bench scoring and a substitution rotation. The bench was a big deal for us.”
Bowen switched up the starting line-up for the game and it worked as the Beavers jumped out to a quick 10 point lead at 15-5 eight minutes into the game. BSU kept a single-digit lead for most of the first half, owning a 26-18 advantage with 4:52 left, keeping the poor shooting Wolves at bey. The Beavers then went cold and Northern State finally found its rhythm and rattled off a 15-2 run to close the half and take a 33-28 lead into the locker room.
NSU shot 7-of-32 (21.9 percent) from the field in the first half, but four of its buckets were from beyond the arc. The Wolves also helped their cause by grabbing nine offensive rebounds and forcing 12 BSU turnovers, while shooting 15-for-21 from the free throw line. BSU on the other hand, shot 12-of-29 (41.4 percent) from the field, while only making one 3-pointer on 12 attempts. It shot just seven free throws, making three.
The Beavers came out of the break firing from beyond the arc, going on a 13-8 run to knot the contest at 41-41 with 17:31 showing on the game clock. The three of the first four baskets by BSU came from 3-point land, two from freshman guard Jake Schalow (Kaukauna, Wis.). The Beavers held a small lead for the next 7:30 until the Wolves tied the game 64-64.
NSU found the next basket on a jumper with 8:57 left in regulation, but BSU went on a 4-0 run to take a two-point lead. The Wolves then responded with a jumper and the game was again tied 68-68. The Beavers dug deep on both ends of the floor and went on a 8-0 run to take a 76-68 lead with 3:07 remaining in the regulation.
BSU never lost the lead the rest of the way, but the home team wouldn’t back down, hitting desperation three after desperation three to make it interesting. Fortunately the lead was large enough for the No. 1 free throw shooting team in the country, as the Beavers combined to shoot 37 times from the charity stripe in the second half and made 31 of them. Ellisor led the team from the line, shooting 8-of-10. In the last three minutes, the Beavers went 12-fo-15 from the line.
BSU had five players in double-figures for the first time this conference season, led by Ellisor’s season-high performance. He shot 9-of-16 from the field and added six rebounds that tied a team-high with sophomore Mason Walters (F, Milton, Wis.). Schalow earned the first start of his young career, making the best of it with a season-high 11 points.
“Jake is a total team player,” Bowen said. “He hasn’t had many opportunities and for his first true game he played really well. The Jake Schalow we recruited showed up today.”
Tesdahl scored seven points, all on free throws, going 7-for-9. The double-digit mark in the assist column is the fourth time in his career he has accomplished the feat. The 11 assists ties with his performance against Winona State University (Dec. 12) last season. Tesdahl has been leading the league in assists all season and ranked 17th in the nation in the NCAA Summery released Dec. 12.
Walters, senior Patrick Cassidy (F, St. Paul, Minn.) and sophomore Lance Rongstad (F, Eleva, Wis.) all came off the bench and all posted double-figures in scoring. Walters had another strong performance with 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 from the line. Rongstad had 14 points and Cassidy chipped-in 12 on 4-of-5 shooting.
BSU outrebounded NSU 41-36, but again allowed its opponent to pull down more offensive boards. The Wolves had 12 to the Beavers’ seven on the offensive glass. BSU turned the ball over 20 times in the game and NSU turned it into a 28-10 advantage in points off turnovers.
The Beavers now travel to University of Mary for an 8 p.m. tilt tomorrow. The game will air live on Midco Sports Net, channel 28 for Bemidji Midcontinent Communications subscribers.