The Bemidji State men's basketball team challenged No. 3-ranked Winona State Friday night at the BSU Gymnasium but came up short, losing 71-62.
For a time, it appeared the Beavers would continue their mastery over the highly regarded Warriors. Winona lost only seven games last season, and two of those were to Bemidji State.
The Beavers (4-3, 1-2 NSIC) came out with energy and jumped ahead to an early 22-14 lead. The Warriors went on a 24-7 run over the next 12 minutes to build a nine-point halftime lead.
"I thought we played hard, I thought we played with energy, but in the end Winona just made a few more plays than we did," said BSU coach Matt Bowen. "We started out so well, they started hitting threes when we doubled their posts, and that kept them in the game early. We just did not come up with the right plays at the right time."
The Beavers entered the second half with the same fire they began the game with, cutting the Warrior lead to one with 13 minutes remaining. But Winona regrouped and went on a 16-7 run over the next six minutes to push the lead back to 10.
The Warriors stayed persistent on the glass, out-rebounding the Beavers 41-29, and fought off one last surge to hold on for the win.
"It has been an Achilles heel for us all year," said Bowen of the rebounding statistics. "We work on it a lot. Our guys are physical, we are just not very good at it yet. We held them to 42 percent field goal percentage, which is outstanding, but they had 17 offensive rebounds. That is 17 extra chances to get a shot. We will continue to work on it and hopefully get better."
The Beavers were led by junior forward James Ellisor, who had a game-high 22 points. Sophomore forward Mason Walters added 16 points on three 3-point shots and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Bryce Tesdahl did not score, but had a game-high eight assists.
"In the first half I was not aggressive enough," said Ellisor, who scored 16 of his points after halftime.
"In the second half I was, but unfortunately we were not able to make enough stops. We learned tonight to play hard and hopefully play a little tougher. If we play harder throughout the whole 40 minutes, I think we can get some wins."
Bemidji State returns the court tonight at 6 p.m. to host Upper Iowa.
WINONA STATE: Tucker 8-17 0-0 21; Walburg 5-9 1-1 13; Vette 4-12 3-7 11; Armstrong 4-4 0-1 8; Fischer 2-7 0-0 6; Taylor 2-4 0-0 5; Erickson 1-7 2-2 4; Humphrey 1-3 0-0 3; Cameron 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-64 6-11 71.
BEMIDJI STATE: Ellisor 11-18 0-0 22; Walters 6-10 1-1 16; Rongstad 3-8 2-2 10; Cassidy 3-6 2-3 8; Lendl 1-2 2-2 4; Lindstrom 0-5 2-2 2; Tesdahl 0-6 0-0 0; Kinnell 0-0 0-0 0; Shepherd 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 24-56 9-10 62.
Winona State 38 33 - 71
Bemidji State 29 33 - 62