The Bemidji State University men's basketball team has avoided losing streaks all season and continued the trend Sunday with a 63-53 victory against Wayne State University in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game at BSU Gymnasium. BSU rebounded from a Saturday loss to Augustana to improve to 5-1 when losing its previous contest.
The win against the Wildcats snaps a five-game losing streak for BSU versus WSC. Sophomore Lance Rongstad (F, Eleva, Wis.) led the team in scoring with 17, while junior James Ellisor (F, Glendale, Ariz.) recorded his third double-double of the season with 14 points and a season-high 13 rebounds.
"For us to come out with defensive energy when we had another poor shooting night and allow us to stay in the game was very important to stay in the race," said head men's basketball coach Matt Bowen. "Our team is maturing. This league is so difficult and so balanced this year that the team that doesn't hit that 3-4-5 game losing streak can stay in the race because I'm not sure other than maybe the top two teams that will get that 4-5 game winning streak."
The two teams battled during the first 12 minutes, seeing six lead changes and seven ties. A freshman Jake Schalow (G, Kaukauna, Wis.) 3-pointer from the corner gave the Beavers a 25-22 lead that it wouldn't relinquish the rest of the game. BSU built on the lead, going on a 10-6 run to close the half with a seven point lead at 35-28. After being held scoreless in Saturday's contest, Rongstad went 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-3 from 3-point land to lead BSU into the locker room with 11 points.
The Beavers came out of the locker room firing, rattling off an 8-4 run over four minutes of game clock to stretch their lead to 11 at 43-32. The lead hovered around 10 for the next five minutes until WSC went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to five at 47-42 at the media timeout with 9:46 remaining in the half.
Out of the timeout, Rongstad converted on two free throws to push the lead back to seven. It went to nine after a Ellisor block on the defensive end and dunk on the other end.
The Wildcats responded with a 4-0 run to make the score 51-46 in favor of BSU, but a 7-0 run by the home team got the lead back to double-digits with 2:56 remaining in regulation. Junior Jake Lindstrom (G, Cottage Grove, Minn.) started the run with a dagger from beyond the arc and then a drive and lay-up to give him 13 points in the game, recording his first back-to-back double-digit performances of the season.
The run put the Wildcats in a hole they couldn't get out of and the Beavers rolled to the 10-point victory.
Rongstad shot 5-of-7 from the field, 4-of-4 from the line and 3-of-4 from 3-point land. He also added six rebounds. Ellisor contributed two steals and a career-high three blocks that helped BSU to a seven block game that registered a season-high for the team. Sophomore Burke Lendl (G/F, St. Michael, Minn.) had a career-high three blocks to help the cause. Lindstrom finished with 13 points, making three shots from downtown for the second consecutive game. Junior Bryce Tesdahl (G, Crosby, Minn.) had six assists in the game. He now has 298 career assists, which is four shy of taking over second place on BSU's all-time assists list (Since 1976).
BSU shot only 40 percent from the field, but held Wayne State to 39.6 percent, holding an opponent under 40 percent for the sixth time this season. All of last season the Beavers held their opponent under 40 percent just seven times. BSU was able to keep Wildcat leading scorer Amry Shelby quiet after the first five minutes of the game. He scored Wayne State's first 10 points, but would go on to finish with just 14, entering the contest averaging 17.8 points per game.
BSU has struggled with its 3-point shooting this season, entering the weekend as the last place team in conference play in the category. Saturday the Beavers made eight shots from beyond the arc and matched it against WSC, shooting 42.1 percent on the weekend, far and away surpassing their 28.1 percent entering the weekend.
The Beavers now hit the road for a four-game stretch beginning with St. Cloud State Jan. 14 at 8 p.m.